Maggie Smith couldn't be more perfect for the title role in this film if it were written for her. But the most astounding thing about this story is that it's true, an event from playwright-screenwriter Alan Bennett's own life. The film cleverly plays with the idea of a writer telling his own story. And it also gives Smith an unforgettable role in a movie that's both entertaining and sharply pointed.
It happened in 1970 Camden, as neighbours worried about a homeless woman parking her van in front of their houses. She turns out to be Mary Shepard (Smith), and resident Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) offers to let her park her van in his driveway for a few months. She stayed there for 15 years, during which Alan refuses to pry into Mary's personal life and she turns a blind eye to the steady flow of young gentleman callers at his door. Even so, over the years Alan learns some details about Mary's past as a musician, ambulance driver and nun, and that she became homeless because she was on the run from the police.
Bennett takes a cheeky approach to the script, writing two versions of himself: one who lives his life and one who writes about it. The interaction between the two is cleverly played by Jennings and directed with offhanded hilarity by Hytner, who shot the movie in the actual street and house where the events took place. Jennings also adds some emotional interest in Alan's relationship with his mother (Gwen Taylor), who ironically has to move into a nursing home. Opposite him, Smith is as magnetic as ever, reeling off each pithy one-liner with impeccable timing. The role may not seem like much of a stretch, but she delivers it with a prickly mix of attitude and humour, plus a strong undercurrent of pathos.
Continue reading: The Lady In The Van Review
Miss Shepherd is a highly educated elderly woman living off barely anything in a small dilapidated van. She asks for nothing from her community, other than to be allowed her peace and to have a place to park her van. Constantly being moved by authorities, she finds herself taking up residence on Alan Bennett's road, much to the displeasure of his house proud neighbours. Despite her prickly disposition and shameless boldness, Bennett - a man of more timid and awkward nature - takes an immediate shine to Miss Shepherd, offering her his driveway to park her vehicle on a temporary basis. Soon, though, just a few weeks turns into fifteen long years as this impoverished musical scholar and this lowly gentleman of humble background become unlikely yet inseparable friends - a friendship rocked by Miss Shepherd's eventual ill health which soon strikes a sadness in the heart of the whole town.
Continue: Lady In The Van - Alternative Trailer
'The Lady In The Van' director Nicholas Hytner, producer Kevin Loader and writer Alan Bennett - on whose life the film is based - ponder over the excellence of leading lady Maggie Smith in the role of an educated yet poverty stricken old woman named Miss. Shepherd.
Continue: The Lady In The Van - Featurette
Sir Tom Stoppard just called you dumb. Did you hear that?
Sir Tom Stoppard, considered by many to be Britain's greatest living playwright, says he is being forced to dumb down to that modern audiences understand his references. Stoppard, 77, said he had to change a scene in his latest play The Hard Problem three times between previous to make a joke more obvious.
Sir Tom Stoppard suggested he had dumbed down his latest play for modern audiences
"It's very rare to connect an audience except on a level which is lower than you would want to connect them on."
Continue reading: Sir Tom Stoppard Says He Dumbs Down For Modern Audiences
Alan Bennett has been speaking with the National Theatre's Nicholas Hytner to celebrate his 80th birthday.
Alan Bennett has explained how he guarded his sexuality for much of his career to avoid being pigeonholed as a gay playwright. Bennett, one of Britain's most respected writers, is best known for The History Boys and The Madness of George III. He was in conversation with BBC Four to mark his 80th birthday.
Alan Bennett Turns 80 on Friday
"My objection about people knowing more about one's private life was that I didn't want to be put in a pigeonhole," he told National Theatre director Sir Nicholas Hytner.
Continue reading: Alan Bennett Didn't Want Gay Label, "I Wanted To Be My Own Man"
Sir Nicholas Hytner is going out with a bang.
Sir Tom Stoppard Is Set For A New Play at the National
Sir Nicholas - whose time at the National is coming to an end after 12 years at the helm - revealed he had been "nagging" the acclaimed playwright for a new work since he was appointed director.
Continue reading: Sir Nicholas Hytner Pulls Out Big Gun Tom Stoppard For Final Season
Nicholas Hytner has been an overwhelming success as the director of the National Theatre.
Nicholas Hytner, the director of the National Theatre, will step down from his role in 2015, paving the way for a new era at London's biggest theatre company. However, there was no scandal, disappointing figures or bad reviews that led to his decision to Hytner's decision to leave and he is presumably still the best person for the job.
It's been a hugely successful run for the 56-year-old, whose first action in his role was to launch the Travelex £10 ticket scheme which meant a third of seats were available at massive discounts. It encouraged students, families and the less well-off to enjoy a night at the theatre and appeared to work. The legendary Peter Brook once said "The future of the theatre is cheap seats," and Hytner appeared to listen.
Elsewhere, he created NT Live, which broadcasted productions to screens around the UK and the world, allowing audiences at home to enjoy the likes of Helen Mirren in Phedre. However, more than anything else, Hytner brought the very best plays, dramatists and actors to the National Theatre. Amongst Hytner's own productions were Alan Bennett's The History Boys - one of the most successful plays in the West End - and Richard Bean's One Man, Two Guvnors, which starred James Corden in one particularly production.
Continue reading: Will Sam Mendes Replace Nicholas Hytner At The National Theatre?
Sir Nicholas Hytner, the man responsible for bring the likes of War Horse and The History Boys to the National Theatre, is to step down.
Sir Nicholas Hytner, the man who led the National Theatre to huge success and through various degrees of controversy in the past 10 years, is to step down from his post as director in 2015. The 56-year-old will officially leave at the end of March 2015, after previously signalling his intentions to step down, reports the Press Association.
Hytner has been the man in charge during the National Theatre's great highs, including The History Boys, War Horse and One Man, Two Guv'nors, though he came in for his fair share of criticism following the staging of Jerry Springer: The Opera, which brought a huge backlash from Christian groups. Following a performance screened by the BBC, it led to death threats against several television executives.
Speaking of his exit, Sir Nicholas said, "It's been a joy and a privilege to lead the National Theatre for 10 years and I'm looking forward to the next two. I have the most exciting and most fulfilling job in the English-speaking theatre, and after 12 years it will be time to give someone else a turn to enjoy the company of my stupendous colleagues, who together make the National what it is." Executive director of the National Theatre Nick Starr will also leave his post near year after 12 years at the helm.
British newspaper The Evening Standard hosted their theater awards over the weekend, with an as-expected big win for Danny Boyle and the team behind the Olympic Games opening ceremony which took place in London earlier this summer.
Whilst the closing ceremony was largely forgettable – a parade of pop acts that reminded us all of Britain’s current superficial state – the opening event was a thing of wonder, something that took in the best of the country and added in a dose of self-depreciating humor to boot as it told of Britain’s development through the industrial age to the present day. The Guardian reports that the director of the event, Boyle, was presented the award for Beyond Theatre, which "celebrates theatricality outside the confines of the auditorium", by Olympic gold medal winning cyclist Victoria Pendleton.
The night wasn’t all the Olympic team’s though, with Nicholas Hytner also enjoying a fruitful evening. The National Theatre’s artistic director – who recently teamed up with Boyle in an attempt to prevent arts-funding cuts outside of London – won both the Lebedev special award and best director for his production of Timon Of Athens. Simon Russell Beale took the best actor award for the fourth time in his career meanwhile. There was success too for 29 year-old Nick Payne, who became the youngest playwright to pick up best play, for Constellations.
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