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The Lady In The Van

Over the years, RAODS has built-up and maintained a high standard of performing and they continue to deliver every time. Last night was no exception as it was very easy to forget that these performers are only amateur.

The Lady In The Van is based on the relatively true story of Miss Shepherd, an eccentric woman of uncertain origins, who `temporarily’ parked her van in writer Alan Bennett’s London driveway and proceeded to live there for the next 15 years. This story was made into a film in 2015 with Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings playing the central characters.

Taking the lead in this production was Matthew Ellison and Christine English. The duo had a great amount to learn in this piece, and it certainly did not go unnoticed by the audience. Both performers performed with the upmost precision and made it look effortless. Matthew carried the timidity of his character in voice and his demeanour, and never once dropped his “Yorkshire-ness”. Christine really delivered in her performance and certainly gave Maggie Smith a run for her money! The two leads were well-supported by a terrific cast, with some playing multiple characters throughout. RAODS are incredibly lucky to have this talent in their portfolio!

The set was simple yet effective, with three separate sections including Alan Bennett’s house, his front garden and the Camden Street. Towards the end of the first half, the van appeared! Equipped with brake lights and exhaust fumes, this really became a central character in itself. Hat’s off to the design and production team!

Although this wasn’t one of the strongest productions I’ve seen RAODS do, this was by no means any fault of their own. More so, this was the style of the piece. In particular, the first half of the show was incredibly laborious and some of the witty lines or ‘funnies’ were lost in the mammoth monologues. Alan Bennett style is like marmite – you either love it or hate it! For me, it’s the latter! Also, there were numerous expletives used during the show and certainly, when the ‘C’ word is being used, there should be more of a warning given to the audience. Personally, I would suggest the recommended age is changed from 12 to 16+. Although this is subjective and perhaps out of the control of RAODS, I felt the language used in the production did not add anything extra and could have been taken out.

With this being said, RAODS did put on a good standard of show and it was thoroughly enjoyed by those who came. I always look forward to seeing what RAODS will pull out of the bag next time – somehow, they always seem to do it!

The Lady In The Van will be at the Plaza Theatre, Romsey every evening until Saturday 20 July … or maybe for 15 years, who knows!