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The Lady in the Van ready to pull into Amblecote church hall

By Marion Brennan | Stourbridge | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

The story of a woman who parked her van outside the home of a famous writer for 15 years is being brought to the stage in Stourbridge.

Lady in the Van is being performed by the Enville Street Dramatic Society in Amblecote

Reluctant landlord Alan Bennett related the comic trials of having Miss Shepard park her clapped-out van in his London driveway in his diaries.

He later turned the tale into an award-winning stage play and in 2015 it was made into a film starring Maggie Smith.

Now the Enville Street Dramatic Society are bringing their version of the story to life at Holy Trinity Church Hall, Amblecote, later this month.

The play uses two Alan Bennett characters, one who was often irritated by the demands of his unwelcome lodger while the other was amused by her outrageous demands.

The two Alan Bennetts are played by Lee Morgan-Salcombe and David Lavender, Miss Shepherd is played by Carey Esthop and Pauline is played by Jess Skidmore

Wendy Hemming, the group's publicity manager, said: "When the real Miss Shepherd died, strewn among the old newspapers, rotten fruit and discarded batteries, he found an envelope marked 'Mr. Bennett – if necessary'.

"Inside was the name and address of what turned out to be Miss Shepherd’s brother, who filled in the details of his sister’s life.

"She had been a gifted pianist as a child, training with the renowned conductor Alfred Cortot. She gave up music after deciding to become a nun. Following World War II her brother had her briefly committed to a mental institution because of Shepherd’s constant arguing with their mother.

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"She later went on the run when a motorcyclist struck her van and was killed. The accident wasn’t her fault, but Shepherd fled the scene, ultimately winding up homeless in front of Bennett’s home."

The social aspects of Miss Shepherd’s life have attracted interest and staff from Mary Stevens Hospice, Stourbridge, have asked the drama group if they would like to take part in a discussion about those issues of the play.

The two Alan Bennetts are played by Lee Morgan-Salcombe and David Lavender, while Miss Shepherd is played by Carey Esthop.

Car parking for the production is free at the Stourbridge Health Centre Opposite the church hall in Vicarage Road. The church hall car park is reserved for disabled and restricted mobility audience members, the cast and authorised helpers.

The play runs from November 27 – 30, with performances starting at 7.30pm.

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan
@Marion_EStar

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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