The Lady in the Van – review

Maggie Smith is the perfect bag lady in Alan Bennett’s comedic tale of human connection

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The Lady in the Van ★★★ 
10.45pm BBC2 on Monday 23rd December

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This is a true story, adapted from a play by Alan Bennett. It tells of Mary Shepherd (Maggie Smith). An eccentric old woman whose home was a dilapidated van which, in the 1970s, she parked, uninvited, in the driveway of Bennett’s London home and kept there for fifteen years. The van stank and so did she. Bennett (accurately portrayed by Alex Jennings) is obviously not pleased about this, particularly after she makes a god-awful mess in his house. But at the same time, as a writer, he can see her as source material. The story is told from Bennett’s point of view as he investigates Shepherd’s background and discovers both that she is not who she claims to be but also that in, as it were, a previous existence had a potentially glamorous but ultimately rather tragic life. Maggie Smith, as ever, is on great form.