The Lady in the Van is directed by Hytner from a script by Bennett that started as modest memoir of his life in Camden and then was slimmed down and adapted for the stage before now being ipened right out to show not just one but two Bennett's.Thus there's a moment when Bennett is talking to his alter ego, the one who does the writing and the nagging, as opposed to the one that does the living and the putting up with things, and 'the real Bennett' makes clear that the eccentric Miss Shepherd occupying his driveway is not something he wishes to encourage and that putting up with her is not because he sees her as a subject. "I want to write about spies". Which he has done on a number of occasions, the first of which being after Miss Shepherd had occupied the space out front. It was, I think, the first of his plays I saw produced on stage, a production of The Old Country, written in 1977 but produced in Melbourne in 1980 with Robert Morley in the lead. It's another rumination on those Cambridge spies Burgess, Maclean and Philby who have properly fascinated Brit writers for decades.
|A Day Out, Stephen Frears, UK, 1972|
That film got entered into MIFF when the local office of the BBC sent down a pile of tapes of stuff that the ABC in its wisdom had decided against running or, worse, never decided about anything at all as part of its then output deal with the BBC. A fine old time was had by the then functioning selection committee running through them all.
Bennett returned to spies again when he and Schlesinger targeted in on the fourth man, the Keeper of the Queens Pictures, Sir Antony Blunt in A Question of Attribution (1991). It has been a rich vein that Bennett has mined rather a lot. There has been both a radio and a theatre adaptation of An Englishman Abroad.
Of those four guys who arrived fully formed when they unleashed Beyond the Fringe on an unsuspecting world and, among many grandiose claims, re-invented satire, it was the blinking, retiring gay guy who eventually went on to achieve most and to endure publicly. I know that Jonathan Miller still directs operas and does TV productions of them and such but really that's a minor trade and the people who appreciate it are a minority of the minority who actually go out to any form of theatre,
That was back in 1962 at the Edinburgh Fringe. Bennett has been the man who most especially has engaged with audiences of all kinds. I cant claim any wildly intense study of his work. I've still missed more than a few of the films he has written, perhaps most notably The Madness of King George (Nicholas Hytner, UK, 1995), a pleasure still awaiting. In fact the work for film is probably the least of it, even though he seems especially interested to be a collaborator as well as an auteur.
|Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett, Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd|