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July 2010. Part 1 of 1

Snoopy has been to the theatre.  Pete explains more:

Snoopys Acting Debut!

Sometime at the beginning of June, Elvis Payne contacted me with regards to how my 1970 Regal Supervan III (aka Snoopy) was running. He had been asked by the director of the Oldbury Rep (Helen Spragg)if who he knew of anyone who allow them to use their 3 wheeler as part of their production of Alan Bennetts Lady in The Van.

As I work in Oldbury and live only 10 minute drive away I was more than happy to oblige. After a few emails between myself and Helen the productions director we arranged to meet at the Oldbury Rep on the 20th June. Everyone we met was so very friendly and welcoming, this was great for me as it was my 40th birthday and Snoopy’s 40th birthday the day after, taking part in this definitely was making it a birthday to remember.

The plan was for Sally Pratt the actress playing the role of Miss Shepherd would be filmed, in her theatre costume, driving Snoopy towards the film crew, this footage would then be used as part of the backdrop during one of the scenes. Sally had never driven a 3 wheeler before so after a little tuition off she set on her own, she coped brilliantly with my little old car. It took a few takes to get the right footage but it was worth it.

As a thank you for the use of Snoopy, Helen provided us with tickets to watch the show so we could see the end result of the filming. Myself and my partner Dee, went along on the 7th July to watch the show, on arrival we were greeted by Helens lovely mum who was manning the programme and refreshment stand. She gave us a free copy of the programme, we were delighted to see an acknowledgement to us in there.

We had great seats near the front at the centre and even though it was midweek the theatre was full. The play was excellent, for those who may not know the story, its a true tale about Alan Bennett’s unusual friendship with a lady whom he met whilst living in Camden, London. Miss Shepherd lived in a Bedford van, selling pencils and leaflets in the streets. She ended up living in her van in Alan Bennett’s street moving further and further up the road until she was outside his house. Events happened and she eventually ended up living in his driveway for about 15 years until she died.

During the interval we shared and drink with Helen and told her how good the play was especially the van that the stagehands had made especially for the production. Helen told us to enjoy the second half especially the first scene. We were very excited as we heard the unmistakable sound of a Reliant engine and Snoopy was in full glory projected onto the stage. As Miss Shepherds second home or extension which she also parked on Alan Bennett’s drive.

Sadly the play ended with her death in the back of her beloved van, her real identity is revealed as are the circumstances of how she ended up living as she did. A very thought provoking, poignant play and a reminder to us all that there is always a story behind why someone is homeless, it may not be a life choice.

Thank you to Elvis for connecting me with Helen and making my dream come true of having my car used for more than just car shows. Heres hoping that Snoopy’s acting debut wont be his last!

Pete Gnosill

July 2010

Miss Shepherd (Sally Pratt) with Snoopy.


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