Tag Archives: Wyndham’s Theatre

The Life I Lead


Wyndham’s Theatre

The Life I Lead

The Life I Lead

Wyndham’s Theatre

Reviewed – 18th September 2019



“manages to combine laugh-out-loud dry asides with moments of remarkable honesty and sweetness”


‘What is it and when does it start?’ We at first meet Miles Jupp as actor David Tomlinson as if by accident, as he appears awkwardly trying to leave the stage and apologising for the disruption with typically English deference. In a meta twist which never feels strained or tedious, we’re watching a comic actor play a comic actor reflecting on his life – a life that has lots to teach us about fatherhood, identity and ultimately resilience and love.

Tomlinson is best known as that most English and famous of cinematic fathers, Mr Banks, in the 1964 childhood staple Mary Poppins. The shape of Mr Banks in negative, a silhouette cut out of a door, and tumbling bowler hats are on stage throughout The Life I Lead (also Mr Banks’ signature song) – reminders of a character always present.

In fact, Englishness is shot through James Kettle’s charming script, with plenty of self-deprecating humour and grappling with emotional closeness – and who could pull this off better than that most English of comics, Miles Jupp? The piece, written for Jupp, manages to combine laugh-out-loud dry asides with moments of remarkable honesty and sweetness.

Direction, from Selina Cadell and Didi Hopkins, feels confident, always working in service to Kettle’s writing. The quality script is the star here, with Jupp magnificently animating the cast of characters that populated Tomlinson’s fascinating life. A courtroom set piece where we see Jupp flash between a hoary old judge, an orating lawyer and Tomlinson himself is so remarkable as to receive spontaneous applause.

Lee Newby’s set is simple, invoking a dream-like drawing room which might be a kind of heaven. Certainly Tomlinson tells us that drawing rooms are his sanctuary, querying with the dry wit that characterises the night whether it was worth fighting the Second World War only to lose drawing rooms, and laments his sons’ choices of ‘lounges’ instead. The floor, ceiling and walls are dappled with the shapes of passing clouds, and this is apt; the production reflects deeply on flight and on falls.

Jupp is by turns hilarious and reflective as we hear about Tomlinson’s life and his experiences (so often airborne, like Mary Poppins herself), from the RAF to the plane crash later in life that saw him in court. And we hear about falls of a different kind, including the tragic suicide of Tomlinson’s first wife and his own father’s staggering fall from grace.

Most touchingly, we also explore parenting. We see a father who struggles and one who succeeds, and – like Mr Banks himself – we ultimately see redemption. This is a night with a touch of magic; Mary Poppins would approve.


Reviewed by Abi Davies

Photography by Piers Foley


The Life I Lead

The Life I Lead

Wyndham’s Theatre until 21st September


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Red | ★★★★★ | May 2018


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Red – 5 Stars



Wyndham’s Theatre

Reviewed – 16th May 2018


“For ninety non-stop minutes the audience is taken through a whirlwind of Rothko’s intensity, an emotional roller-coaster”


Almost a decade after its first production at the Donmar Warehouse, Michael Grandage’s production of Red returns to the London stage, this time in the heart of the West End at the Wyndman’s Theatre. The play follows a fictional account of artist Mark Rothko and his newly appointed assistant Ken, between the years 1958 – 59 during the time of a cultural shift within the arts, as the emergence of Pop Art began to slowly push remnants of Expressionism away. One might think that such a story would best suit an audience with a solid foundation of knowledge on 20th century artists, however, the universal themes and overall plot of the play will resonate with anyone with even the remotest interest in the arts.

For ninety non-stop minutes the audience is taken through a whirlwind of Rothko’s intensity, an emotional roller-coaster. The set remains the same throughout, and is accurately based on Rothko’s original studio in New York’s Bowery. Around the studio are various interpretations of Rothko’s paintings, which are moved around by both actors during each transition and placed on the central canvas holder. Each transition, though not always clear, offers a moment for the audience to reflect on the painting in question, almost as if given a quiet moment in a gallery to take in the picture fully.

It is quite remarkable, and a testament to both the actors, Alfred Molina and Alfred Enoch, and director Michael Grandage, that there is never a dull moment in the play despite the fact that most of the action could be seen by some as rather mundane. There is incredible attention to detail with the set, with each part of it serving a purpose throughout the play. In every scene we see the actors using the space as artists would; setting up and priming canvases, mixing paint to name a few. The only one thing the audience never sees either Ken or Rothko do, is actually paint. This immense focus on naturalism, as well as the genius of John Logan’s writing, makes Red an incredibly compelling piece of theatre to watch.

From those who frequent the Tate Modern, to those that have never stepped foot in a gallery before, Red highlights the arguments for the importance of the arts in society today. It may even inspire one to revisit forms of art which one may have before deemed as inaccessible.


Reviewed by Claire Minnitt

Photography by Johan Persson



Wyndham’s Theatre until 28th July


Red Revival at Wyndham’s


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