For this year’s production, the Crescent Theatre Company present The Lady in the Van. It narrates the autobiographical tale of writer Alan Bennett's relationship with the local homeless lady in the van.
A tale which parallels Bennett's own relationship with his depressive mother. Pat Dixon shone as the contrastingly emotional, yet comical Miss Shephard, who drives the narrative as Alan Bennett writes the play on stage. Dixon's educated Miss Shephard was at first glance very stern with a more emotional side that evolved as she soliloquised her past life toils. Further strong performances came from Jonathon Owen and David Harvey as Alan Bennett and his inner voice. The duo's dynamism on stage was particularly striking and made this abstract relationship really convincing.
Nick Owen’s direction was strong and although some moments were slower due to the dense text, this could easily be remedied with some additional movement.
The aesthetics of Keith Harris' set worked well enhanced by a split stage between Bennett's London house, garden and street outside. A striking red, later yellow, van added to the set well. In conjunction with Harris' design, the lighting further enhanced the setting of each scene allowing changes to smoothly fade from night to day, church to house in just one lighting cue. One thing that worked particularly well was the haze in the air which lifted the action's height from just the performers. As well as this the cyclorama upstage was a successful technique in creating a blue day skyline or a nighttime amber. Strong work indeed from the design team on this show.
The Lady In the Van runs at the Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, from 10-17 September.
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.