Dame in my driveway
The Lady in the Van
Maggie Smith’s brusquely comical performance in the title role is The Lady in the Van’s big selling point, but not its only virtue. Alan Bennett’s script, based on events in his own life, is a clever and witty combination of comedy and drama. Bennett (amiably played by Alex Jennings) appears as twins in his own story—his writerly self and the somewhat lonely fellow who lets the homeless “Miss Shepherd” (Smith) live in a van parked in his front driveway. The mystery of Miss Shepherd’s actual identity and past plays out alongside the puzzles of Bennett’s relationships with his aging mother (Gwen Taylor), his fuddy-duddy Camden Town neighbors, and the occasional late-night rent-boy. Bennett’s script entertains smartly throughout, but never really commits to its gently Pirandellian paradoxes about art and life. Jim Broadbent turns up as a seedy blackmailer. Pianist Clare Hammond plays the Smith character as a young woman.