Weymouth Pavilion

YOU always get good value for money with Alan Bennett and this memorably dramatised and true account of the life and times of the unexpected tenant in his garden has deservedly won acclaim as a book, a film and a play.

When Miss Shepherd, a homeless and eccentric lady, slowly works her way down a posh London residential street with her van, she finally arrives at the Bennett home where the writer kindly allows her to park in his drive for a couple of weeks to escape vandalism, little knowing that she would remain there until her death 15 years later.

In Weymouth Drama Club’s latest production, the whole cast wonderfully capture the spirit of the comedy drama in which Bennett gently explores not only Miss Shepherd’s character but his own, as we learn about her early hopes and talent and its sad outcome together with Bennett’s struggle with his dementia-suffering mother.

Unusually, two men simultaneously play the role of Bennett who discuss the van lady, share opinions and lead the narrative throughout, imaginatively portrayed by Rob Tripp and John Bower while Lynn Cockerill is a splendid Miss Shepherd, an astonishing achievement since she stepped into the role only a few days ago following the sudden illness of the original performer. Congratulations to Lynn for a remarkable success.

Cherralyn Bush’s direction is nicely judged throughout and the neat set, which includes the van, adds to the pleasure of this play that addresses in a sensitive and amusing manner subjects ranging from poverty and the idiocy of social workers to political and religious fervour, all told with the typical English humour of which Bennett is a grand master.

In the roles of the well-meaning but useless neighbours, Paul Gorsuch and Tanya Remnant are quietly amusing in a production that is full of observant touches which enrich the dialogue and creates a pleasurable evening to remember. The production continues tonight, tomorrow night and Saturday night.

Contact Weymouth Pavilion for tickets.