Theater News Online
free issue
London Theatre Reviews
NY Theater Reviews
LTN Recommendations
NYTN Recommendations
Book Reviews
Movie Reviews
London Theatre Archives
NY Theater Archives
Latest New York News
Latest London News
NY News Archives
London News Archives
Peter Filichia's Monday Quiz
Dining and Travel
London Theatre Listings
NY Broadway Listings
Off-Broadway Listings
London Tickets
Advertise with us

Subscribe
Renew
Give a Gift


Logo

Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
DEAR LUPIN
at Apollo Theatre

CARDBOARD CHARACTERS
By SAM MARLOWE

  James Fox and Jack Fox/ Ph: Manuel Harlan

Why should anyone be interested in the relationship between a crusty, upper-crust, horse-racing correspondent and his feckless son? Don’t look to Dear Lupin for any obvious answers. It’s based on Charlie Mortimer’s 2012 book, a collection of his late father Roger’s letters to him. I confess I’ve not read it, but it proved a bestseller, so presumably it had its charms. It’s hard to claim the same, though, for Michael Simkins’ rather lame stage version. 

The main draw of Philip Franks’ somewhat plodding production is that it stars James Fox and his own, real-life offspring Jack – two members of the Fox acting dynasty. But even their performances seem half-hearted in an obstinately thrill-free evening that is at best a (very) mildly touching salute to the father-son bond, and at worst seems to be an uncritical celebration of snobbish, privileged eccentricity, complete with casual racism and sexism. Granted, the narrative takes a darker turn during its second half, but there’s too much stiff-upper-lip and emotional constipation at work here for even the more momentous incidents to raise more than an arched brow.

Mortimer père – self-styled “geriatric racing hack and long-suffering father” – was an officer in the Coldstream Guards who fought, and was captured, at Dunkirk, and later wrote on racing for The Sunday Times for nearly 30 years. He nicknamed Charlie Lupin after the disreputable offspring of Mr Pooter in the Victorian comic classic The Diary of a Nobody – and the missives he sent to him betray both an affection and an exasperation. 
 

The play aims for gentle humour, but it's never especially funny. Instead, it's just blandly inconsequential, despite the phantoms of major life events flitting, with the scantest of mentions, though the non-action: the alcoholism of poor “Nidnod,” as Roger dubs his bewigged and rather tragic-sounding wife; the booze and drug habits of his son himself; Charlie’s homosexuality, to which his father seems strangely – or perhaps willfully – oblivious, and even his diagnosis as HIV positive.

Adrian Linford’s design places the pair’s meanderings in a room full of bric-a-brac and memories, chiming with incidents from Charlie’s inglorious career that take place in the antiques industry, and furnishing the Foxes with the kind of junk-shop paraphernalia that crops up in any family’s history. There’s a tiny rocking horse that stands in for a thoroughbred on the racetrack while James Fox’s Roger watches the Grand National. Jack leaps over or lounges on old furniture as he gambols through his Eton schooldays, an unsuccessful stint in the army and the various other aimless misadventures of his young adult life. Both Foxes seem strangely stiff in their roles, James delivering his lines with ponderous deliberation, Jack’s singsong intonations distractingly repetitive. Fox senior’s stabs at supporting roles such as a Soho madam or a barking sergeant major – who share cod Cockney accents – are particularly unfunny and unpersuasive. 

Roger’s low-key death-bed scene in hospital has pathos, and there is the odd affecting moment as he repeatedly bails out and frets distractedly over the hopeless Charlie. But this is eminently forgettable and oddly inert theatre.

 


SUBSCRIBE TO New York Theater News
SUBSCRIBE TO London Theater News

SCHEDULE UPDATES -
Yes, Prime Minister contracts its run, while A Chorus Line expands its own.
POWERHOUSE OF THEATRE - After 11 years as the Almeida Theatre's artistic director, Michael Attenborough is stepping down to focus on directing. 

SONGS FROM THE HEART - Once the Tony-Award winning musical is set to hit London in January.


Wine, Fruit, and Gourmet Gift Baskets.
Privacy Notice   |   Front Page
Copyright © TheaterNewsOnline.com. All Rights Reserved.