First published in The Times, Monday July 24 2017
The predicament of aristocrats and establishment types who have fallen on hard times is a recurring theme in the plays of Alan Bennett. He charted the fates of the Cambridge Spies, Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, in his works, An Englishman Abroad and A Question of Attribution. Miss Shepherd, the heroine of The Lady in the Van, is a former concert pianist reduced to sleeping rough following a spell in a psychiatric institution.
First published in The Times, Tuesday July 14 2015
Faced with the prospect of having a stranger’s Bedford van parked in their driveway for more than a decade, most homeowners would have seen red. Alan Bennett, however, spotted a creative opening in his uninvited guest’s filthy clothes, offhand manner and ripe odour. His 15-year relationship with the eccentric, reactionary Miss Shepherd would ultimately lead the playwright to pen a radio series, a play and a feature film, to be released later this year.