THE LADY IN THE VAN
Ingatestone and Fryerning Dramatic Club
Miss Shepherd took refuge in Alan Bennett's driveway in 1974, just temporarily - “three months at the outside”. She died there in 1989, still in the van, still on his driveway.
Bennett chronicled her sojourn in Camden Town twice, first in a memoir, then as a play, and it was this bittersweet comedy that Ingatestone and Fryerning chose for their Spring production.
Jan Ford was a superb vagrant. Swaggering, scratching, flapping her arms, hunched in her wheelchair, sporting her trademark cap, she was totally convincing physically, and with impressive vocal variety and immaculate comic timing skilfully moved the mood of the piece from farce to tragedy in a memorable portrait of this exasperating, pathetic “soul in torment”, tragically excluded from the mansion of her music.
She was well supported by two Bennetts – Alan Thorley mostly deskbound as the Writer, and Mel Hastings as the hands-on Householder.
Among the other roles, I enjoyed Angel Beckett's non-judgemental Social Worker, and Brian Terry as the brother who had Miss Shepherd put away in Banstead.
I found the lighting strangely flat, and not all the props were as appropriate as the phone and the Olivetti, but Graham Poulteney's production had many telling touches, for example emphasising the comparisons between Mam [Jenny Godwin] and the other deluded Lady, in the Van.