Review: The Lady in the Van at Aylesbury Theatre

PUBLISHED: 14:51 25 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:18 20 February 2013

Review: The Lady in the Van at Aylesbury Theatre

Review: The Lady in the Van at Aylesbury Theatre

Reviewer Clare Bourke attends the opening night of Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van at the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury


The Lady in the Van, Aylesbury Waterside Theatre

April 24-28, 2012

By Clare Bourke

Hull Trucks Executive Director Andrew Smaje calls The Lady in the Van a wonderfully witty comedy that unites two national treasures - Alan Bennett and Nichola McAuliffe! And how right he is.

From the opening scenes right through to the end, this is a play that captures the audience and has them gripped by every word, every nuance.

Nichola McAuliffe gives an absolutely outstanding performance in this Bennett classic and it is hard to believe she is not the actual old lady who lived for 15 years at the bottom of Bennetts garden, so convincing is her portrayal.

The play tells the story of Miss Shepherd, an old lady who just appeared one day in the street where Bennett lived, complete with a rusty old van. After being moved on by most of Bennetts neighbours, she successfully negotiates with the playwright to take up residence in a newer old van in his garden.

With amazing patience, Bennett struck up an unusual friendship with the lady and the two rattled along quite contentedly.

In this production, by the highly acclaimed Hull Truck Theatre Company, the story is beautifully brought to life with the help of not one but two Alan Bennetts on stage at all times - brilliantly portrayed by actors Sean McKenzie and Paul Kemp. The two actors play off each other so well that what seems initially like it will be confusing or overplayed, is actually a stroke of genius.

The seven-strong cast also includes Fenella Norman, Dale Rapely, Karen Traynor, Ged McKenna and Sophie Robinson who all offer excellent support.

This is a heart-warming play full of the witty one-liners you would expect from Bennett. Every single line in the play, directed by Sarah Esdaile, serves a purpose and I was truly surprised to see the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury was not completely full I would expect a play of this quality to be a sell-out.

There is still time to catch and even if you are not a Bennett fan, I would highly recommend booking tickets to catch this production.

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