I arrived early at the Apollo Theatre. The auditorium was quiet and almost empty. From somewhere backstage came the sound of ‘Tit Willow’ from The Mikado. It played distantly and softly, as if someone was playing the tape for their own pleasure. It stopped soon, but the immediate impression of something being created for private enjoyment pervaded the evening.
The actual play opened with a sort of celestial ‘Mastermind’ which served to introduce us to Roger (James Fox). He got the answers right, of course, as the questions were all about himself. It was a clever if rather twee way of doing exposition.
From there the play, so-called, went trotting gently on, being amusing enough in a camp way about Eton, the Coldstream Guards, gap years, fancy dress parties, the tribulations of ageing, fatherly advice, cars, the changing times of the 70s and 80s and, well, life in general in the upper middle classes. There was a bit of music, some jokey dancing, and a chance to see James Fox do charming, quick impersonations of a variety of characters, almost as if we were watching a family game of charades. It was pleasant although I can’t say it was actually about anything. The characters were too entitled and too aware of their entitlement to engage us more than superficially.
I declare an interest: Diary of a Nobody, which inspired the book on which this play is based, is, in my opinion, one of the funniest books I have ever read; each time I read it, it makes me laugh out loud. It is funny because Mr Pooter is a man with a sense of global self-importance above his station, and no sense of humour. He is universally recognised and appreciated. Everyone in the world knows a Mr Pooter. There weren’t a lot of laughs in the audience at ‘Dear Lupin’ simply because watching entitled people being entitled is not funny. If tragedy is a great man going to destruction, then comedy is a small man with big ideas.
Afterwards, on the pavement in front of the theatre, I fell into conversation with a woman who had seen the play and was worried that she hadn’t enjoyed it. She didn’t find it funny or particularly interesting and was concerned that her language skills were not good enough to appreciate this ‘very English’ humour. As she was a sophisticated woman and spoke fluent idiomatic English, I was able to reassure her that the fault was not hers; the play, although English, was simply not funny, and I suggested she read ‘Diary of a Nobody’ if she wanted a more authentic experience of English humour.
If I didn’t like Dear Lupin, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a likeable play. It wasn’t really a play at all; it was a likeable enough evening spent watching another family play games, Pooter about if you like, reminisce and dress up.
Review by Kate Beswick
Roger Mortimer’s often hilarious, sometimes touching, always generous letters to his son, Charlie, are packed with crisp anecdotes and sharp observations. The trials and tribulations of Charlie’s youth and adulthood are received by his father with both humour and resignation. Spanning twenty-five years, their correspondence forms a memoir of their relationship, an affectionate portrait of a time gone by.
Father and son James Fox and Jack Fox will star in this new stage adaptation by best-selling author Michael Simkins, in which he uncovers many more undocumented stories of Charlie’s wayward life and his relationship with his father.
Running Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Age Restrictions: Recommended for ages 14+
Show Opened: 30th July 2015
Booking Until: 19th September 2015
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.45pm
Matinees: Thursday and Saturday 3.00pm
Tuesday 4th August 2015