THEATRE REVIEW: The Life I Lead ★★★★
The Life I Lead
Wyndham's Theatre, London
Monday 16th - Saturday 21st September 2019
David Cecil McAlister Tomlinson was born 7th May 1917, and was best known for his roles as George Banks in 'Mary Poppins' and Professor Emelius Browne in 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks', though his personal life was far from glamorous, from one failed marriage with a widow in the 1940s to his unsettling relationship with his strict and harsh father, Clarence Tomlinson, known as CST. In this staggering and genuinely emotional memoir-like production, The Life I Lead sees comedian and actor Miles Jupp give an absolute masterclass in the most subtlety of acting and comedy, constantly juggling humour to sadness, ripping your heart out along the way.
James Kettle, who shares a true friendship with Jupp, helms the script which so effortlessly interweaves throughout Tomlinson's varied career and personal struggles; Jupp equally, in this one man show, embodies real life caricatures to such an extent that his performance is utterly mesmerising. Shifting between Harry Gunnell, his 'Agent', and back to Tomlinson at the top of the second act was a personal highlight and Kettle's script truly allows Jupp to settle into the personas in which he is so beautifully portraying.
Didi Hopkins and Selina Cadell share joint directing credits and certainly succeed well in allowing us to transport back in time throughout the journey we are lead on, which Jupp clearly relishes when it comes to the clumsiness of his mannerisms and the little nod to magic at the end of the first act. Lee Newby's timeless design also feels calming with a gentle blue pallette woven into curtains and flooring, with a beautiful sky backdrop and numerous of the ever famous bowler hats dotted around the stage. The centre piece of the cutout framed door is most of all a poignant reminder of Tomlinson's tragic private life compared to the glamorous life he portrayed onscreen.
Overall, The Life I Lead is an emotional, harrowing, but heartwarming tale of a man so loved and one still taken into our hearts due to our undying warmth around his recognisable character and personas, with Miles Jupp giving a standout performance!