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Sunday, 1 November 2015

Portable Typewriters for The Lady in the Van

The Bradfordians will perform the stage play of Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van at St Margaret’s Hall in Bradford-on-Avon in west Wiltshire, England, this week, just as the movie of the same play reaches cinemas.
English actor Nigel Hawthorne (Yes, Minister; Yes, Prime Minister) once bemoaned the fact that playwright Alan Bennett used a disconcerting array of typewriters to write his scripts - often inserting additions to the script from different machines.
In keeping with the author's penchant, stage productions of Bennett's play The Lady in the Van have been performed throughout Britain in the past 16 years, and in each case it seems a different portable typewriter has been used. This week's Bradfordians' production, above, has gone a bit upmarket in using a nice cream Olympia Monica.
At least the Bradfordians are to be a little more accurate than some, as the portable typewriter the 81-year-old Bennett still actually uses is an AEG (Olympia) Traveller de Luxe S.
This is Typospherian Rob Bowker's AEG (Olympia) Traveller de Luxe S
The scenes in The Lady in the Van which require a portable typewriter as a prop depict Bennett himself typing.
In a feature article in The Guardian on the weekend, promoting the film version of The Lady in the Van, Charlotte Higgins wrote: "What dates Bennett is not his appearance or indeed his bookshelves, but his grasp of technology. His new film, The Lady In The Van, is about the extraordinary figure of Miss Shepherd, who for 15 years, from 1974-89, made her home in a van parked in the driveway of the house where he used to live, a few streets from his current home in Camden Town. Bennett himself is played by Alex Jennings, who is seen at various points stabbing ineffectually with two fingers at a manual typewriter.
"This, I assume, is a little cruel. 'No, no, it’s absolutely true,' Bennett says, in that blissfully mournful voice that could have been designed for voicing Eeyore (which, of course, he has done, reading the Winnie the Pooh books for BBC radio). The action of the film takes place in the 1970s and 80s, so I assume that he has long since moved on into the digital world. 'Well, we had a computer, but we were burgled and that was the one thing that was taken,' he says. 'I was relieved, really. There was nothing on it. I didn’t know how to put work on it.'
"Surely he at least uses an electric typewriter? 'Well, electric typewriters, they hum. They are waiting, you see, for the next note.' So an AEG Traveller de Luxe manual typewriter it is – lacking both expectant hum and flickering cursor."
Alan Bennett, above, was born on May 9, 1934 in Armley, Leeds, and attended Oxford University, where he studied history and performed with the Oxford Revue. His collaboration as writer and performer with Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook in the satirical revue Beyond the Fringe at the 1960 Edinburgh Festival brought him instant fame. He gave up academia and turned to writing full-time.
Maggie Smith, Kevin McNally, using an Olivetti Lettera 32, and Nicholas Farrell perform in the original stage version of The Lady in the Van at the Queen's Theatre in the West End of London in 1999.
The movie of The Lady in the Van has been adapted by Bennett from his 1999 hit West End play of the same name, which was nominated at the 2000 Olivier Awards for Play of the Year. The film version stars Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings. There's a character it in called UnderwoodSmith has played Miss Shepherd twice before, in the original 1999 theatrical production, which scored her a Best Actress nomination at the 2000 Olivier Awards, and in a 2009 Radio 4 adaptation.
A scene from the movie
Scenes below include those from productions by the Little Theatre Company of Burton-upon-Trent in March 2008 (Smith-Corona Corsair), the Apollo Theatre in Newport, Isle of Wight, in February 2014 (cream Olympia Splendid), the Newport Playgoers Society at the Dolman Theatre in Newport, South Wales, in 2012 (blue Olympia Splendid), and the Hull Truck (Imperial 2002).

4 comments:

Joe V said...

I hope the film version gets release in the States. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

Bill M said...

I'd like to see it. Perhaps BBC America might air it.

Richard P said...

I just saw an ad for the film in the Sunday NY Times.

Steve K said...

We'll all be living out of vans the way things are going! Must check out the play script ...