We know a van that can ... reverse on to the stage

Pat Bickerton as Miss Shepherd and Sandra Smallwood as Mam
Pat Bickerton as Miss Shepherd and Sandra Smallwood as Mam

Members of Woodlands Drama Group have shared their story of how they inherited the central prop of the van for the forthcoming production of Lady in the Van.

When the company decided to perform Alan Bennett’s Lady in the Van in Harrogate Theatre studio it needed some seriously hard thinking. The play is about an old lady who lived in an assortment of old vans, in and around Alan Bennett’s house in Gloucester Road London, for 17 years.

The play features two old Bedford vans and a Robin Reliant, which backs on to the stage. The vans also change colour as the lady prefers them to be painted in ‘crushed mimosa’.

At the end of the play the van ascends to Heaven. “These are quite difficult to pull off in the studio,” said a spokesman.

“So, we decided to make a van as a flat cut-out which we could reverse to change colour.

“We were about to start making this when we had a call from the Little Droylesden theatre. ‘Do you want a free van for your production of Lady in the Van?’ a voice asked. We said ‘yes’, hired a van and drove over to Little Droylesden.

“It was 7pm at night and pitch black. There were 10 people waiting for us. We were given coffee and biscuits and shown around their magnificent theatre. Meanwhile the van was loaded into our transporter and we didn’t have to lift or carry anything. We headed back feeling very pleased with ourselves. When we unloaded it the following day we discovered it was the back of a real van, with real wheels, cleverly altered as a prop. It took an hour to work out how it went together, but we now had a magnificent van.

“We will need several strong men to get the van into the Studio but that is another story. If we can, we’d love to help another group, who plan to do the same play, have the opportunity of using this, free of charge.

Anyone interested, call Woodlands Drama Group and collect it – after December 1.

Lady in the Van runs from November 28 to December 1. Book: 01423 502 116.