Theatrical Catch Up: From On the Town to The Mentor

Tuesday 27 June 2017

It’s been a while.

Phil’s been busy having a bit of work done. At home. Not on his face. Yet.

Despite the dust sheets and flat-pack assembling there has been time for some theatre. He caught Leonard Bernstein’s  On the Town at Regent’s Park the night poor Fred Haig fractured his foot as it happened. Hardly surprising given the impressively sweaty choreographic prancings. It was an early preview and he was slightly underwhelmed despite good performances from the cast, especially from those chaps as the three sailors on 24 hour shore leave in search of adventure in New York Haig, Danny Mac and Samuel Edwards. Lizzy Connolly is hilarious as the taxi-driving Hildy, Miriam-Teak Lee in an impressive professional debut gives splendid elegant anthropologist and Naoko Mori is a winning Lucy Schmeeler.


If Annie Get Your Gun also underwhelmed at the Union it was no fault of Gemma MacLean as the titular gun-toting heroine more the fault of the band drowning out some of Irving Berlin’s brilliant numbers, especially when the ensemble performed. Still this pared-down production was enough to expunge memories of the Young Vic/Jane Horrocks version. Almost. For that we must be generous.



Then there was Peter Shaffer‘s Lettice and Lovage at the Menier with Felicity Kendal and a softly-spoken Maureen Lipman (Sing out Lipman!) taking the roles previously created by Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack. Phil knew it was going wrong in the opening scene when Kendal, playing a stately home guide, prone to sexing up her tours with exaggeration, wasn’t even approaching the comedic highs of Dame Maggie. He had memories of it being one of the funniest scenes he’d ever seen on a stage. After a very lengthy hour and a half (this was Trevor Nunn directing), an interval departure was deemed necessary.



Phil saw the mime show Sam Wills’ The Boy With Tape on His Face at Edinburgh some 6 years ago. That was a much tighter hour than the 2 hour 20 minute show (with interval) Tape Face now at the Garrick. Happily, the film and song parodies (great playlist) and audience participation are as hilarious as before. It’s just there’s a lot more of them. Phil went with Brent who hails from the same home town Dunedin, New Zealand as Wills. Sadly neither of us were called to the stage to participate though Brent has previous form as being an on-stage bull to the gaffer-taped Boy’s matador (in Wales if you please).

If the spectacular (and very clever) finale hadn’t featured more of Phil’s theatrical bêtes noires than he’d ever encountered on a stage before and had run an hour and a half straight through Phil would probably have been groping for a 5 glass rating again.



A preview of Daniel Kehlmann’s (translated by Christopher Hampton) The Mentor which has transferred from The Theatre Royal Bath to The Vaudeville has F Murray Abraham displaying a satisfyingly playful stage presence as an irascible, egotistical playwright Benjamin Rubin, mentoring a younger would be playwright, “the voice of his generation”, Martin Wegner (Daniel Weyman).

Is Wegner’s play really as bad as Rubin suggests? Is it professional jealousy from an older creative who hasn’t had a hit play since the age of 24? Is F M Abraham reprising his Oscar-winning Salieri? Or is it Deathtrap without the shocks? Hard to swallow that “the voice of his generation” doesn’t know what bi-polar means?

The play’s a bit bi-polar itself. Laurence Boswell’s production switches between being thoroughly engaging and very funny to being slightly awkward and stretching credulity. Naomi Frederick as Wegner’s wife and Tom Hollander doppelgänger, Jonathan Cullen as the mentorship facilitator do well with what they’re given, which isn’t an awful lot in the pacy 1 hour 20 minute playing time.




3 Responses to “Theatrical Catch Up: From On the Town to The Mentor”

  1. Glen Moranjie Says:

    I loved TapeFace, but haven’t seen the others – sounds like bullets were dodged.

    I left early from “Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour”, which left me stone cold.

  2. john Morris Says:

    Went on Wed.14th June to see “On The Town”.
    Watched the film the night before,so had some idea what the musical is about.
    It was lovely weather and a full house.
    My goodness what a really wonderful pleasant surprise as this production started,fine music all by Berstein.
    The dancers could sing and the singers could dance.
    It is a great production in every way,fun,bright and showing the wonders of what talented people can do with words and music, outdoors and in relatively small space.

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