The Life I Lead, Park Theatre, Review
PUBLISHED: 12:57 22 March 2019
Miles Jupp gives a funny and very English account of the life of Mary Poppins actor David Tomnlinson
Newsquiz host Miles Jupp‘s charming performance in James Kettle’s one-hander about the life and times of David Tomlinson will add to the danger of his finding himself on a list of National Treasures.
For ninety minutes he had a sell out audience in the crown of his bowler, as he delivered a hilarious and sensitive first person account of the actor best known as George Banks in Mary Poppins.
Tomlinson was born in 1917 and the word jaunty might have been coined for him. He had a stern Victorian upbringing: little affection and plenty of disapproval and discipline.
David and his siblings addressed their lawyer father by his initials - his hero Napoleon was the standard by which he judged his sons – as children and as adults.
His acting career started after a curtailed attempt at soldiery. Via Rep, he found himself in various films.
Usefully, the Life I Lead is punctuated by his filmography which is studded with some pretty blatant name dropping – Gielgud, Van Dyke, Andrews, Ustinov, Disney et al.
The piece includes some wonderful stories, musings, anecdotes as well as rather sombre revelations about his father’s familial duplicity, his son Willy’s autism and the death of his first wife.
Clearly affected, he nevertheless shrugs at each challenge and presses on with life.
Jupp is brillint, warm, self deprecatory, funny and very English. His comic timing is impeccable and soft-shoe-shuffle and umbrella work exemplary.
His reconstruction of the court case in which Tomlinson’s father defends him against a charge of dangerous flying is priceless.
The bowler hat strewn set is striking and could have been lifted from a Magritte canvas. It works well but, although Tomlinson’s backstory is unconventional, to cast it as surreal is a bit of a stretch.
James Kettle and his team have delivered a highly enjoyable evening about one of England’s lesser known but more complex characters, presented with humanity and fun.