In an age of digital communication, the play “Dear Lupin” will make people want to go back to good old-fashioned writing. Michael Simkins took the challenge of adapting the award-winning collection of letters from wildly eloquent racing journalist Roger Mortimer to his son Charlie. The result is a heartwarming comedy giving the audience a glimpse into the life of two whimsical men and times long gone (when petrol was still comparatively cheap).
Charlie – nicknamed Lupin by his father – reminisces about the letters and invites the spirit of his father to participate in sharing them for the theatre audience. Roger Mortimer reluctantly agrees as long as he won’t be asked to dance. Together then, father and son re-enact the letters, spanning over 25 years from Charlie’s Eton school days up to Roger’s death in 1991. Throughout his life, Charlie has a special fondness of getting into trouble and living on the wild side; hopping from job to job and filling his time in between with alcohol and drugs. Yet, his father never gives up on him and while there is some scolding, Roger mostly tries to help his wayward son in making his life a little easier. Besides life advice and the occasional cheque, Roger’s letters contain comical descriptions of the family’s acquaintances, boring dinner parties, and complaints about the silly remarks of his wife. The West End Wilma Review of the bestseller states that “it would have been nice if the book gave slightly more context from son Charlie around each letter and what he was actually doing in situ with when the letters were written” and that is exactly what the stage production does. Charlie comments on how and when he received the letters, what he was thinking or doing while reading them, may it have been during his army times or away in Africa.
The wonderful stage design that contributes in populating the wordy letters with imagery is especially noteworthy: the sky seems to bleed into the wallpaper of a crammed room on stage. Everything a bit disorderly so a lot of details go unnoticed until the room reveals yet another surprise: a poster here, a little Christmas tree there, and oh look there is more to be pulled out of the fireplace.
Real-life father and son James and Jack Fox excel in their roles. Sam brings a lot of youthful energy to the stage, jumping about and pushing around furniture while teasing his more settled father into playing along. Established James Fox naturally has an amazing stage presence, but never overshadows his son. There is a sweet and comical chemistry between the two that can only exist between a real father and son duo, adding another touching layer to an already great play. It is obvious why “Dear Lupin” scored itself a West End transfer and the brilliant acting by both James and Jack Fox make it a true pleasure to watch.
Reviewed by Lisa Theresa Downey-Dent
Photo: Manuel Harlan
Dear Lupin is playing at the Apollo Theatre until 19 September 2015. Click here to book tickets