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The Theatreguide.London Review

Dear Lupin
Apollo Theatre  Summer 2015

Father and son actors James and Jack Fox play father and son characters in this gentle comedy drawn from the book by father and son writers Roger and Charlie Mortimer, adapted for the stage by Michael Simkins without paternal or filial assistance. 

The result is very British, very understated, mildly humorous and mildly sentimental in roughly equal quantities, mildly entertaining and so ephemeral you forget it while you're watching it. 

Born in 1909, Roger Mortimer was a career soldier, World War II POW and later racing correspondent for the Sunday Times. Born in 1952, Charlie Mortimer managed to get himself thrown out of Eton, reinstated and thrown out again, and spent the next twenty years working diligently at becoming an alcoholic and drug addict, and not at all diligently at much else, until major health scares in the 1980s literally and figuratively sobered him up. 

Father wrote wayward son a string of letters, which Charlie collected and annotated in book form in 2012. 

While the book is almost entirely letters, the stage version is built on Charlie's narrative and the re-enactment of scenes, punctuated occasionally by Dad's letters. 

It is the letters, as spoken by James Fox, that carry the evening, Roger's amiable, eccentric and only half-heartedly scolding voice coming through delightfully. 

He never seems really able to work up much moral outrage at his ne'er-do-well son or much of anything else, restricting himself to being wittily curmudgeonly about anything from his first hamburger through microwave ovens, holiday hotels and his wife's wigs. 

James Fox not only gets all the best lines, but also gets to play a string of secondary characters including a spiv, a prissy art auctioneer, a job centre clerk and Earl Montgomery in instant crowd-pleasing caricatures. 

As Charlie, Jack Fox carries the narrative burden and essentially plays straight man to his father, but despite the young actor's charm, the character of Charlie comes across as a rather unpleasant young wastrel. 

In the last half-hour or so the tone shifts toward the sentimental as – spoiler alert – old age and illness enter the story, around the same time that all pretence of relying on the letters is dropped and replaced by unadorned narrative. 

There is fun in James Fox's performance and in the things he is given to say, and there is earnestness in Jack Fox's performance, if not much attractiveness in his character. 

Dear Lupin is a nice safe play to bring your maiden aunt to (Do they still make maiden aunts?), but there is so little there that it constantly threatens to fade away and disappear before your very eyes.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Dear Lupin - Apollo Theatre 2015 

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