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Preview: Lady in the Van at Newcastle’s People’s Theatre

The Lady is a Treat

The Lady in the Van
by Alan Bennett
Newcastle’s People’s Theatre
Until Saturday 19th November 2016

Visitors to the Peoples Theatre are in for a treat this week as they deliver a fine British drama with real quality.

The Lady In The Van is a classic Alan Bennett tale. Like all good tales it recalls events that actually happened. Alan indeed did allow an elderly homeless women to park her van in front of his house. The play shows how the Alan and the lady wound each other up. They agreed on little, and he was easily stressed out by the arrangement.  It is easy to see why they chose to turn the tale into a film, starring Dame Maggie Smith. But do you know what? I prefer the story as a play.

We had previously seen a professional production of this show and happy to report that this amateur production is as well staged and acted as that show.  Anne Cater is simply superb as the titular Lady In The Van, Miss Shepherd. She is both cantankerous and needy, willing to talk and yet refusing to answer straight questions. The role suits Anne so well.

The play is interesting as it requires two Alan Bennetts. One acts as narrator, the other is interacting with the various characters in the story. Sometimes they discuss the situation and tend to disagree with each other. Clearly Ian Willis and Sean Burnside have been working on their broad Bennett style Yorkshire accents. The character is full of apparent contradictions and their delivery makes such internal conflict appear normal.

Photo: Dianne Edwards
Supporting the Alans and the Lady are an ensemble that take up the various roles of people that poke their noses into Miss Shepherd’s life. The Social Worker (Rachel Scott) appears every few months but achieves little but words. Neighbours Rufus (Gordon Mounsey) and Pauline (Kate Williams) talk about socialist values but would rather it wasn’t happening on their doorstep. Meanwhile Alan’s Mam (Kath Frazer) wonders how Miss Shepherd can cope without a proper toilet.  The action flows seamlessly under Clive Hilton’s direction.

So ignore the building works at the front of the building and pop along for a tale that could only happen here to a man like Alan Bennett.

Review by Stephen Oliver


Lady In The Van comes to Newcastle’s People’s Theatre from Tuesday 15th to Saturday 19th November 2016 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost: £13.50 (Concessions £11)
and are available by calling the box office on 0191 265 5020 on online from  

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