The Lady in the Van

Synopsis: The Lady in the Van tells the true story of Alan Bennett's strained friendship with Miss Mary Shepherd, an eccentric homeless woman whom Bennett befriended in the 1970s before allowing her temporarily to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home. She stayed there for 15 years. As the story develops Bennett learns that Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild (died 1989), a former gifted pupil of the pianist Alfred Cortot. She had played Chopin in a promenade concert, tried to become a nun, was committed to an institution by her brother, escaped, had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist for which she believed herself to blame, and thereafter lived in fear of arrest.
Director(s): Nicholas Hytner
Production: Sony Pictures
  Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 5 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
104 min

The smell is sweet,

with urine only a minor component,

the prevalent odour suggesting

the inside of someone's ear.

Dank clothes are there, too,

wet wool and onions, which she eats raw,

plus, what for me has always been

the essence of poverty,

damp newspaper.

Miss Shepherd's multi-flavoured aroma

is masked by a liberal application

of various talcum powders,

with Yardley's Lavender always a favourite.

And currently it is this genteel fragrance

that dominates the second subject,

as it were, in her odoriferous concerto.

But as she goes, the

original theme returns,

her own primary odour

now triumphantly restated

and left hanging in the house

long after she has departed.

Tell her.

- Miss Shepherd.

- Hmm?

In future, I would prefer

if you didn't use my lavatory.

There are lavatories at the bottom

of the High Street. Use those.

They smell.

And I'm by nature a very clean person.

I have a testimonial for a clean room,

awarded me some years ago.

And, do you know, my

aunt, herself spotless,

said I was the cleanest

of all my mother's children,

particularly in the unseen places.

The writer is double.

There is the self who does the writing,

and there is the self who does the living.

And they talk. They argue.

Writing is talking to oneself.

And I've been doing it all my life,

and long before I first saw this house

five years ago.

- Fifteen?

- Number 10 fetched 17.

Come on. I thought you had

a play on in the West End.

These houses have got so much potential,

once you get rid of the junk-.

There you have it. Gloucester Crescent.

Good street. On the up and up.

Big motor, have you? Loads of room.

Watch out...

- Just be a few minutes.

- All right, governor.

You're not Saint John, are you?

Saint John who?

Saint John, the disciple

whom Jesus loved.

No. The name's Bennett.

Oh, well, if you're not Saint John,

I need a push for the van.

It's conked out.

The battery, possibly.

I put some water in. Hasn't done the trick.

Well, was it distilled water?

It was holy water, so it doesn't

matter if it's distilled or not.

'Course, the oil is another possibility.

That's not holy, too?

Holy oil? Well, in a van,

it would be far too expensive. Now.

I want pushing around the corner. So...

Are you wanting to go far?

Possibly. I'm in two minds.

I'm turning left!

Oh, is that it?

I need... I need the other end.

Well, that's half a mile away.

I'm in dire need of assistance.

I'm a sick woman.

Dying, possibly.

I'm just looking for a last resting place,

somewhere to lay my head.

Do you know of anyone?


Bye-bye, madam. Mind how you go.

A proper writer might welcome such

an encounter as constituting experience.

Me, I have to wait and mull it over.

She saw you coming.

She's old.

You wouldn't get Harold Pinter

pushing a van down the street.

No, unlike me.

But then I'm too busy not writing plays

and leading my mad, vigorous creative life.

Yeah, you live it, I write it.

- Welcome.

- Hello.

- All moved in?

- Hello. Yes.

- Was the move good?

- Yes, thank you.

Well done.

It's a pretty house.

Not as big as ours, of course,

but then you're unattached.

No, it's attached to the house behind.

I mean you. You're single.


Sickert once lived in the street,

apparently. Dickens' abandoned wife.

Now it's the usual North London medley.

Advertising, journalism, TV.

People like you, writers, artists.

Anything in the pipeline?

Well, I have got a play on in the West End.

Of course you have, yeah.

Dare one ask?

Uh, thirteen five.

- Oh, my God.

- Yes, I know.

We're twice as big,

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Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett (born 9 May 1934) is an English playwright, screenwriter, actor and author. He was born in Leeds and attended Oxford University where he studied history and performed with the Oxford Revue. He stayed to teach and research medieval history at the university for several years. His collaboration as writer and performer with Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook in the satirical revue Beyond the Fringe at the 1960 Edinburgh Festival brought him instant fame. He gave up academia, and turned to writing full-time, his first stage play Forty Years On being produced in 1968. His work includes The Madness of George III and its film adaptation, the series of monologues Talking Heads, play and subsequent film of The History Boys, and popular audio books, including his readings of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Winnie-the-Pooh. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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