Photo By Keith Patterson

The Lady In The Van
Theatre Royal Bath
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NICHOLA McAULIFFE stars as one of drama’s most extraordinary characters as Alan Bennett’s THE LADY IN THE VAN motors to Bath

Olivier Award-winner NICHOLA McAULIFFE stars as the eccentric Miss Shepherd in Alan Bennett’s wonderfully funny dramatisation of THE LADY IN THE VAN at the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 25th June to Saturday 30th June as part of a UK tour.

This heart-warming and poignant play tells the story of Alan Bennett’s unusual neighbour. When a decrepit Bedford van grinds to a halt opposite Alan Bennett’s house in Camden Town, little does the writer suspect that its next parking place will be his own garden, where its evil-smelling occupant is to remain for a further fifteen years.  The genuinely eccentric Miss Shepherd used to drive ambulances in the war, has an unexplained aversion to piano music, may have been a nun, and is described by the author as “a bigoted, blinkered, cantankerous, devious, unforgiving, self-centred, rank, rude, car-mad cow”.  Forced to turn down his music to her complaints, recharge her van’s flat battery and become her reluctant carer, Alan Bennett uses his vivid observations to create a best-loved play full of wit, warmth and great one-liners.

Photo by Pete Jones

This Hull Truck production drew critical acclaim when it first toured the UK last year.  Nichola McAuliffe is reunited with director Sarah Esdaile, whose recent successes include The Deep Blue Sea with Maxine Peake for West Yorkshire Playhouse and The Sleeping Beauty for Birmingham Rep.

Hull Truck’s Executive Director Andrew Smaje said: “This wonderfully witty comedy unites two national treasures – Alan Bennett and Nichola McAuliffe!  Nichola gives one of the performances of her career as Miss Shepherd in a stunning revival of our hit production.”

Multi award-winning actress Nichola McAuliffe received much acclaim for her performance in Alan Bennett’s Bed Among the Lentils, which played Bath in 2000, and later won her the Edinburgh Stage Award. Best-known on television for the role of Sheila Sabatini in over 50 episodes of Surgical Spirit, Nichola also played Anita in Coronation Street and made guest appearances in My Family, Holby City and Doctor Who.  In the West End, she won an Olivier Award for her role as Kate in the RSC’s production of Kiss Me Kate and was Olivier Award nominated for her role as The Baroness in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  She also won the Clarence Derwent Award for her performance as Queen Victoria in the RSC’s Poppy and the Manchester Evening News Award for her role in Peter Hall’s production of The Wild Duck.  Her film credits include Stephen Frears’ film Cheri with Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates. She wrote the play A British Subject, which she performed at the Edinburgh Festival, in New York, and in the West End. Previously at the Theatre Royal Bath, Nichola reprised her hilarious West End role as Katisha in The Mikado for Carl Rosa Opera in 2011 and starred as Marjorie in The Peter Hall Company’s praised production of Home in 2009.  In August, Nichola’s new play Maurice’s Jubilee will be staged at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where she will perform alongside Julian Glover and Sheila Reid.

Photo by Pete Jones

This Christmas, Nichola McAuliffe will return to Bath to star as the Wicked Queen in the Theatre Royal’s 2012 pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Of course The Lady in the Van would not be complete without Alan Bennett himself – or rather the two Alan Bennetts who appear in this play, portrayed by actors Sean McKenzie and Paul Kemp. Sean McKenzie’s television credits include Birdsong, Peak Practice and The Royal, he was last seen at the Theatre Royal Bath in Time and the Conways in 2003.

Paul Kemp has played many roles for Alan Ayckbourn’s regular company. His previous performances at the Theatre Royal include roles in three of Ayckbourn plays: My Wonderful Day in 2010, How The Other Half Loves with The Peter Hall Company in 2007, and Drowning on Dry Land in 2005.

The cast also includes Fenella Norman (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Sheffield Crucible), Dale Rapely (The Merchant of Venice, Globe Theatre), Karen Traynor (Tracey Beaker Returns, BBC), Ged McKenna (Faith Healer, Library Theatre Manchester) and Sophie Robinson (Juno and Paycock, National Theatre).

Alan Bennett has been a household name for more than forty years. One of the most distinctive voices in British theatre, his numerous, impeccably-observed plays include Single Spies, Enjoy, Forty Years On, Habeas Corpus and The Lady in the Van. His series of Talking Heads also enjoyed enormous popular success, including Bed Among the Lentils which won Nichola McAuliffe an Edinburgh Stage Award for her role. Bennett’s hit play The Madness of George III was made into a double BAFTA Award-winning and Oscar nominated film, The Madness of King George.  The stage play was successfully revived in Bath last summer prior to the West End.  His drama The History Boys won no less than 30 major awards and was also made into a film in 2005.  His most recent play, The Habit of Art, an imagined encounter between W. H. Auden and Benjamin Britten, was lauded by critics and audiences during a sold out run at the National Theatre. Bennett’s new play, People, will open at the National Theatre later this year.

THE LADY IN THE VAN tours to the Theatre Royal Bath from Monday 25th June to Saturday 30th June. Tickets are available from the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or online at www.theatreroyal.org.uk