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The Lady in the Van and Spectre

Arts | By Marcus Berkmann | January 2016

Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd in The Lady in the Van

Maggie Smith dazzles in a performance of such richness and wonder you want to shower her with awards yourself

My daughter (16) and my mother (age undisclosed) went together to see The Lady in the Van and pronounced it ‘the most north London film ever made’. It’s a fair comment. My daughter has lived in north London all her life, so she should know, while my mother has walked along Gloucester Crescent, NW1, looking in all the windows more times than she can remember. No interior is safe from her gaze. ‘I’m not sure that carpet is quite right for that room,’ would be a typical comment.

The Lady in the Van is, of course, Maggie Smith, in a performance of such richness and wonder you want to shower her with awards yourself, personally. She plays Mary Shepherd, the deeply eccentric and (by all accounts) malodorous old thing who lived in a run-down yellow van in Alan Bennett’s drive for fourteen years in the 1970s and 1980s. Why did he let her stay?