The Lady in the Van
by Alan Bennett
Miss Shepherd - Maggie Smith
Alan Bennett - Adrian Scarborough
Alan Bennett 2 - Mam - Marcia Warren
Rufus - Matt Addis
Pauline - Janice Acquah
Underwood - Stephen Critchlow
Social Worker - Caroline Guthrie
Fairchild - Philip Fox
Doctors - Jonathan Tafler and Malcolm Tierney
Music composed by Simon Morecroft
Adapted and Directed by Gordon House
The Lady in the Van is the first radio production of Alan Bennett's autobiographical stage play, starring Alan Bennett himself as one of the two "Alan Bennetts" featured in the drama, and reprising the brilliant stage performance of Dame Maggie Smith as Miss Mary Shepherd, the lady who takes refuge in his Camden garden for three months, and ends up staying fifteen years.
When Alan Bennett adapted his short autobiographical memoir The Lady in the Van, into a full length stage play, it received some excellent critical reviews.
"One of the saddest, funniest and most distinguished offerings for years" wrote John Peter in the Sunday Times, while Charles Spencer, in the Daily Telegraph, thought it was "without doubt, the best new play of the year.
Now Radio 4 brings this wonderfully bitter-sweet comic diary to the airwaves, with Maggie Smith once more playing the eccentric and cantankerous Miss Shepherd, and Alan Bennett and Adrian Scarborough playing the two Alan Bennetts - one in the role of the omniscient narrator, and one experiencing events as they occur.
Miss Shepherd was the genteel vagrant who parked her Bedford van near Mr.
Bennett's Camden house in 1971 and eventually browbeat him into pushing it into the mini-driveway leading to his front door.
And there she steadfastly remained until her death in 1989, emerging, every so often, to make a complaint, share a loony observation or simply fill Mr.
Bennett's tiny garden with "a right Suzie Wong" - stench and filth that he compared to ''the inside of someone's ear."
But the play is as much about the author himself, as Miss Shepherd.
What are Alan Bennett's motives in becoming landlord to such a lethally dotty tenant? Is he too feeble to reject her? Is he guiltily compensating for not spending enough time with his own mother (played here by Marcia Warren) Or is he, as his neighbours suggest, a modern-day saint? Was there (he suggests it himself) always part of him that wanted to exploit Miss Shepherd for literary profit? They play invites us both to ponder these questions, and asks what responsibility we ourselves have for the vagabonds who walk our streets and sometimes land up on our doorsteps.
But above all 'The Lady in the Van' is simply hugely enjoyable entertainment, now brought vividly to radio.
Simon Morecoft composes original music in a production adapted and directed by the former Head of Radio Drama, Gordon House.
Alan Bennett's relationship with an eccentric old vagrant who lived in in his front garden
Adaptation of the autobiographical stage play by Alan Bennett about his relationship with Miss Shepherd, an eccentric old vagrant who took refuge in a van in his front garden in 1971 and ended up staying there for over 15 years.
Miss Shepherd....Maggie SmithAlan Bennett 2....Alan BennettAlan Bennett....Adrian Scarboroughdoctors....Jonathan Tafler and Malcolm Tierney
Alan Bennett's relationship with an eccentric old vagrant who lived in in his front gardenfairchild....Philip Foxmam....Marcia Warrenpauline....Janice Acquahrufus....Matt Addissocial worker....caroline guthrieunderwood....Stephen Critchlow