The Lady In The Van
by Alan Bennett

This Saturday Play (1 Jan 2011) is the first radio production of Alan Bennett's autobiographical stage play, starring Alan Bennett as one of the two "Alan Bennetts" 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.

Alan Bennett adapted his short autobiographical memoir The Lady in the Van, into a full length stage play. Now Radio 4 brings you the radio adaptation, 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? The play invites us to ponder these questions, and asks what responsibility we have for the vagabonds who walk our streets and sometimes end up on our doorsteps.

Cast: Miss Shepherd ..... Maggie Smith, Alan Bennett ..... Adrian Scarborough, Alan Bennett 2 ..... Alan Bennett, 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.

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