David Tomlinson is a face that is familiar to everyone who watched ‘Mary Poppins‘, or ‘Bed knobs and Broomsticks’, during their childhood. Disney’s epitome of an upper class English gent, or an upper class twit if you were not so kind, Tomlinson was decency and the stiff upper lip personified. But now, in ‘The Life I Lead’, comedian and actor Miles Jupp has brought Tomlinson back to stunning, vibrant life, and shows there was far more to the actor than foil for Julie Andrews.
‘The Life I Lead’, which opened at the Birmingham Rep Theatre last night, is a real tour de force for Jupp, a one man show where he takes on the role of Tomlinson to tell his fascinating life story, as well as adding characterisations of his difficult father, his landlady, Walt Disney and Harry Gunnell (no spoilers here, go and see). He takes on each role admirably, often with hilarious results that have the audience literally laughing out loud as we hear of how he can to be Mr Banks, and of his early life playing the whole of a crowd scene in early plays. But pathos is never far behind, as we also learn of the shocking murder/suicide of his first wife and adopted children, and of the pain of learning his third son was autistic. Jupp handles the revelations beautifully, showing the pain and the sorrow of the man who just minutes earlier had made tears fall from the eyes in laughter.
Jupp is uncannily like Tomlinson in both character and mannerisms, and his way of telling a story is both charming and infectious, his asides and one liners are delivered with perfect comic timing that belies his comedian roots. At times, it;s as if Jupp is Tomlinson, particularly when delivering Mr Bank’s signature song ‘The Life I Lead’.
Warm, funny, touching and wonderfully written, ‘The Life I Lead’ is a beautiful piece of theatre that should not be missed.
THE LIFE I LEAD
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