Saturday, 21 April 2012

Theatre Review: The Lady In The Van, Dolman Theatre

Floral display for Lady In The Van
I’ve always found Alan Bennett’s wry character observations interesting. Generally tinted with black humour, his stories tend to feature well observed real life scenarios.

Such is the case for the Ray Stone directed Lady in the Van acted out by the Newport Playgoers, of which I spent a few hours watching at The Dolman Theatre this afternoon. 

Alex Wilson and Kevin Myers expertly present Bennett on stage as a split metaphor, two contradictory characters that make up a personality. Bennett whose ailing mother is taking a long but steady decline into senility is giving him concern as well as subject matter for his writing.

However; his concerns are put on hold by another presence in the shape of an old woman who takes up residence in a battered old van on the road in which he lives. Ruth Ferguson gives a sympathetic and troubled portrayal of Miss Shepherd who ultimately takes up residence in Bennett’s garden for 15 years.

The play, although biographical gives self-confessed hints of embellishment in places, all cleverly written with the honest approach you would expect from Bennett. Here we find him suffering fools gladly (but not when his metaphor gets to speak) and the genuine personal suffering of Miss Shepherd.

You may not come away from the production loving any of the characters but you do certainly feel empathy for them.

A well executed production.

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