Originally published on A Younger Theatre
Not all plays need to be packed with emotion or tear-jerking scenes. Indeed, Dear Lupin depicts a father and son who seemed conditioned not to show any outward signs of affection or emotion at all. Set around the lives of this upper middle class family in the mid-1900s, it is narrated through a series of letters that Roger Mortimer (James Fox) writes to his son Charlie (Jack Fox), whom he affectionately names Lupin.
The humour is typical of the middle classes as well: Roger shows disdain at any signs of the modern world whilst Charlie is determined to rebel against any advice he receives. Initially the scene unfolds in a similar way to Jeeves and Wooster, with Roger taking on additional characters in order to re-enact the letters that Charlie narrates. The opportunity for some light comic relief is taken advantage of in these depictions and Roger adopts endearing mannerisms reminiscent of a grandfather set in his ways, but meaning well.
As the play progresses and more letters are read out, you get the sense that this family is typically dysfunctional – each has a story or an opinion about some current affair that is written in to add to the jovial atmosphere. For example, Roger’s restrained worry at his son’s adventures in a car to Greece are peppered with pleasing one-liners: “Don’t get diarrhoea out there. If nothing else, it’s not an easy word to spell.” The set is well designed to punctuate the narrative – clever touches such as using the desk lamps as car headlights add background flourishes whilst grounding the play in its middle class roots.
It’s hard to imagine that in a two-man play one of the characters would be forgettable, but Charlie is not particularly exciting to watch. He narrates the stories well and ends the performance with some touching moments by his father’s side, but other than that doesn’t make an impact. Roger by comparison is better, with a stronger script and more laughs. But he too lacks a certain comic timing that would raise the play to another level. All in all the play is pleasant, comforting and typically British. But it doesn’t set the world afire, portray hard-hitting opinion or controversial subject material. It’s the theatrical equivalent of a blanket and a pair of slippers when you get home from work; you enjoy the feeling of them but can’t help thinking you could be doing something more exciting with your evening.
Dear Lupin is playing at the Apollo Theatre until 19 September. For more information and tickets see the Nimax Theatre website. Photo by Manuel Harlan.