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Lady in the Van (BBC Audio) [Audiobook] [Englisch] [Audio CD]

Alan Bennett

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4. Juni 2009 BBC Audio
An eccentric old lady moves into a quiet street in Camden Town. There she remains, installed in her van in glorious self-sufficiency, until the council instructs her to move on. A kind homeowner invites her to move her van into his garden. A bizarre tale in itself, but when the homeowner is writer Alan Bennett and the lady stays for 15 years, it's a tale that provides the raw material for a book and a stage play. This is the fascinating story of Miss Shepherd, the genteel vagrant who found a unique place in Alan Bennett's life and writing. Adapted from his stage play and directed by Gordon House, this new version stars Maggie Smith, Alan Bennett and Adrian Scarborough. 'Truly brilliant and totally unmissable' - "Radio Times".

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Life imitates art in The Lady in the Van, the story of the itinerant Miss Shepherd, who lived in a van in Alan Bennett's driveway from the early1970s until her death in 1989. It is doubtful that Bennett could have made up the eccentric Miss Shepherd if he tried, but his poignant, funny but unsentimental account of their strange relationship is akin to his best fictional screen writing.

Bennett concedes that "One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation", but as the plastic bags build up, the years pass by and Miss Shepherd moves into Bennett's driveway, a relationship is established which defines a certain moment in late 20th-century London life which has probably gone forever. The dissenting, liberal, middle-class world of Bennett and his peers comes into hilarious but also telling collision with the world of Miss Shepherd: "there was a gap between our social position and our social obligations. It was in this gap that Miss Shepherd (in her van) was able to live".

Bennett recounts Miss Shepherd's bizarre escapades in his inimitable style, from her letter to the Argentinean Embassy at the height of the Falklands War, to her attempts to stand for Parliament and wangle an electric wheelchair out of the Social Services. Beautifully observed, The Lady in the Van is as notable for Bennett's attempts to uncover the enigmatic history of Miss Shepherd, as it is for its amusing account of her eccentric escapades. --Jerry Brotton -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch .


"...a wonderfully bittersweet comic diary of the years in which a lethally dotty and very smelly old bat parked her unroadworthy vehicle in Bennett's Camden garden, thereby providing him with a roughly equal amount of good journalistic copy and guilty landlordly irritation." Sheridan Morley, Spectator" -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Taschenbuch .

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Life with an eccentric acquaintance 1. Juli 2001
Von Eileen Galen - Veröffentlicht auf
More than thirty years ago, lovable British playwright Alan Bennett encountered an eccentric and difficult old woman, Miss Shepherd, living contentedly, eccentrically, and not without troubles, in her van - in his London neighborhood. Bennett, intrigued by her and concerned for her safety (which was not always assured) subtly befriended her. Within a few months she had moved the van to a parking spot across from his house. She stayed for years and this slim book, first published in 1989 as a long piece in "The London Review of Books," is the story of their gently and sometimes humorously intersecting lives.
In subsequent years Miss S.'s highly individual sense of upward mobility would find expression, and there would be replacement vans. Miss S. was a Catholic who loved to paint her vans and favored yellow - asserting "it's the papal colour." She was sometimes demanding of Bennett's time, requesting favors and errands of him. She never said "Thanks." She revealed precious little about her past: only of her current opinions. She wrote and sold pamphlets on the street that she claimed were authored anonymously. She sold pencils on the street, claiming that her pencils were the best. She was given to fanatical religious and political pronouncements, and outrageous statements of prejudice and some silliness. Her right-wing politics clashed with Bennett's, and her comments on current events - reported deadpan, and verbatim - were often very funny. Old age and its freight of health and personal problems dogged her, and Bennett did what he could to help.
Alan Bennett is a great listener. In addition he can tell a story simply and clearly, with precision and understatement. He tells just enough. He encourages his characters to speak for themselves.
This is a great little nonfiction story that is tender but never mawkish - told with wit and elegance.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Superb 17. November 2008
Von S J Buck - Veröffentlicht auf
'The Lady in the Van' is a completely true story. In the 1970's and 1980's outside Alan Bennett's own house in Camden an old lady (Miss Shepherd) lived in a Van in the street. After a time she could no longer stay on the street. Amazingly Bennett allowed her to move her Van into his garden and there she remained until she died.

This is a remarkable story, and its one of the funniest, yet moving pieces of writing that I have ever read. Bennett is a marvellous observer of people and his humanity shines through. Miss Shephard's living conditions were frankly disgusting (just think of the smell) and this would be enough to put most people off having any contact with her at all.

Bennett here has written one of the finest works of moving and poignant non-fiction I know of.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen Alan Bennett - as usual - at his best 24. April 2012
Von Sheila H. Mclaren - Veröffentlicht auf
This is a wonderful two-act, two-hour play by Alan Bennett. When he first met Miss Shepherd in the 1960s, she prevailed on him to push her stalled van from Gloucester Crescent to Albany Street in Camden Town. This was the beginning of a very long relationship, brilliantly, wittily and with deep perception brought to life in both the short book of the same name and the play.

Miss Shepherd and her van periodically changed their "permanent" parking place, and in 1974 both of them moved into Alan Bennett's front garden "for a few months", after some unkindness towards her out on the street, and also because the Council was about to make it illegal to permanently park in the road. The few months became fifteen years.

For fifteen years Alan Bennett lived with the nose of this (terribly smelly) egg-yellow van directly outside his front door, and with its (also very smelly) occupant who made incessant and unreasonable demands, didn't believe in "thank you" or "sorry" ("Sorry is for God"), hated noise (music was considered noise) and children, and didn't wash. She also quite frequently met the Virgin Mary and other notables in her wanderings around Camden town.

The play re-enacts those years, in compressed form of course, with Alan Bennett divided into two Alans, the first being the one who takes part in the action, and Alan Bennett 2 being the one to describe and comment. This device works brilliantly, and we see every mood induced in Alan by this situation, as well as the interest and fascination it holds for him as a writer. We also see and sense his kindness, but he insists that he does not like the word "kind"; nor does he see himself as a "nice" person. Others might disagree.

The dialogue is sharp and witty; the action often hilarious. But not all of it is funny, because Miss Shepherd's state of mind and precarious lifestyle are very sad. As her past slowly and with difficulty unfolds, we see how deeply traumatic most of her life has been, and Mr Bennett handles all this with the utmost sensitivity.

This play is comedy, satire and tragedy at their best.
5.0 von 5 Sternen BRILLIANT AND AFFECTING THEATER 14. April 2013
Von David Keymer - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
The Lady in the Van is about the playwright's divided life, for which all real experience is grist for the writerly mill. It's about living gay and closeted in suburbia (the suburbs of London) in an age when coming out could get you arrested. It's about coming to terms with your own Mum, about having boors for neighbors, who don't know when to leave you alone. It's about a disturbed woman's mania and grief, and becoming friends of a sort with her -at least, a concerned neighbor--though she was chronically ungrateful and encroaching, but when her health fails after she has driven him near mad with her impossible demands for years, he doesn't want her to change, he wants her to stay like she is, mad but indomitable to the end. Pick as many from the list above as you want and that's what The Lady in the Van is about.

It's based on actual events. In 1974, a woman who lived in her van pulled it up Alan Bennett's driveway. She was only supposed to stay for a few days, while she decided where to move next, but she ended up staying for fifteen years and was both a demanding tenant -can you be a tenant if you never pay rent?-- and clearly insane. She also stinks. Continence is arguably a problem with her and her van has no toilet. (Excuse me! -lav.) Bennett wrote about his struggles with the mad Miss Shepherd, first in memoir form and then as a play. Maggie Smith played her in the play's premier in London.

Lady is exceptionally rich in humor and wit but pathos is never far away as we follow Mr. Bennett's fifteen-year struggle with the peremptory and out-of-touch neighbor he has acquired seemingly by accident and clearly against his wishes.

The play is also about what how writers use experience. Bennett separates himself into two characters in the play: Bennett I, the Bennett-on-the-spot, who actually participates in the events that unfold, and Bennett II, the reflecting Bennett, the writer-after-the-fact. In the play, the two Bennetts engage in conversation with each other, second-guessing each other's motives, commenting on the people and activities they observe, and discussing how much and under what circumstances a playwright can bend facts to improve a story. It makes for brilliant dialogue and keeps the mind just as engaged in the play as one's humor glands (wherever they are located).

There are surprises in the play -a thuggish gentleman appears out of nowhere and starts banging on Miss Shepherd's van door seeking to pry some money from her. He claims her name isn't Miss Shepherd at all. Miss Shepherd grows angry when Bennett I plays piano music in his study. Why? What's the backstory for this poor lady?

It plays as brilliant theater. Do you want laughs? It will provoke plenty, all the way from tiny little titters to great big belly laughs. Want to empathize with the characters on stage? You will. The more you learn about Miss Shepherd, the more you will treasure her. Want to think? This play will make you do it, although it's not primarily a thought-play. Rather, it's a good old-fashioned comedy of character, but presented in a new and effective way.
4.0 von 5 Sternen "One seldom was able to do her a good turn without thoughts of strangulation." 23. Juli 2007
Von Mary Whipple - Veröffentlicht auf
Famous for his hilariously ironic comic sketches in Beyond the Fringe and Talking Heads, and for his recent Tony Award-winning play The History Boys, among other productions, Alan Bennett here gives some insights into his own life and personality. In "The Lady in the Van," he details the twenty-year relationship he had with someone who, under any other circumstances, would be considered a homeless person. In this case, Mary Shepherd is not "homeless" because she lives, unkempt but unfettered, in a filthy van--which she ultimately parks in the garden of his house. The van and its occupant remain there for years.

Beginning in 1969, when Bennett tells of meeting her for the first time, after she has parked her van on a lot across the street from his house, and concluding in 1989, with her death at seventy-seven, Bennett gives a diary of Mary Shepherd's life--and, incidentally, his own life, not as her benefactor (which suggests conscious "do-gooding" on his part) but as a person who respects the independence of those around him, even those like Mary Shepherd who challenge his good nature every step of the way.

The founder of her own political party (membership: two, including a nun suffering from Alzheimer's), writer of political tracts (which she sells, along with pencils), devoutly religious dropout from a convent, and fiercely independent challenger of "the system," Miss Shepherd lives without sanitary facilities, in a series of vans (each of which she paints yellow, "the papal color").

As Bennett describes her colorful clothing and headgear (all of it foully odoriferous) and the unsanitary conditions under which she chooses to live, the reader is aghast at Bennett's tolerance and ability to continue letting Miss Shepherd live her own life on her own terms--and on his property.

Respectful of his subject, while selecting details which reveal her unique (and impossibly difficult) qualities, Bennett shows himself to be genuinely caring and thoughtful--and perhaps the only person in England who could have tolerated the lifestyle Miss Shepherd brought to his yard. n Mary Whipple
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