While other London ventures are on a fast track for a U.S. Engagement, there appears to be no progress at present in the planned Broadway transfers of the London productions of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker and Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van. The Pinter, which opened in the West End at this time last year, was once announced to arrive in New York in fall 2001. With fall nearly gone, producer Robert Fox told Playbill On-Line Dec. 4 that there was "nothing definite" to report about the transfer, although he said The Caretaker was still a Broadway possibility, as was the casting of original star Michael Gambon.
Fox is also behind the push to bring The Lady in the Van, starring Bennett and Maggie Smith, to Manhattan, but again said there was now no specific timetable for a New York mounting. The play was once announced for late 2002.
The comic play, directed in London by Nicholas Hytner, opened at the Queen's Theatre in London on Dec. 7, 1999, after previews from Nov. 19. It closed on July 15, 2000. Many thought the whimsical, idiosyncratic play "too English" to make the leap to New York. The play would mark Smith's first appearance on Broadway since Lettice and Lovage, a decade ago. According to Variety, the work's fusty author, Alan Bennett, will also appear in the NYC production. He will play himself—the play is autobiographical and features two dramatic versions, one public and active and one private and prone to commentary, of Bennett. The writer would play the latter role on Broadway. (The venture wouldn't be Bennett's first appearance on a New York stage, of course; he was a member of the famous "Beyond the Fringe" British comedy group, which scored a couple stage hits in the 1960s.)
The Lady in the Van brings to life Bennett's book about the real-life character Miss Shepherd (played by Smith), a lady tramp who parked her camper van in the front garden of the author's home and stayed for fifteen years. Smith was nominated for a Best Actress Olivier this year for her performance.
The English production of Pinter's modern classic also featured Rupert Graves and Douglas Hodge, and was directed by Closer author Patrick Marber. Gambon last appeared on the Broadway stage in David Hare's Skylight a few seasons back. Graves, meanwhile, was one of the stars of Marber's Closer, two seasons ago. In Pinter's Caretaker, two brothers (Graves and Hodge) indulge in a power game at the expense of a tramp called Davies (Gambon).