The Life I Lead: A Charming Look At David Tomlinson's Career
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David Cecil MacAlister Tomlinson was a polite, genial, diffident actor.
Miles Hugh Barrett Jupp is a polite, genial, diffident comedian.
They are clearly made for each other, and in gentle, charming one-man play The Life I Lead, they form an easy companionship throughout what's only a slightly over-long evening.
Most Radio 4 enthusiasts could listen to Jupp read the telephone directory, but the stories of Tomlinson's life and career — of which it has to be said playing Mr Banks in the 1964 movie Mary Poppins was both the pinnacle and almost the end of his acting — are sweet and funny and occasionally hilarious, especially in his insulting and then flattering of Walt Disney, for whom he was the epitome of an English gentleman.
The script is by the unsung hero of Radio 4 comedy, James Kettle, not only lead writer on The News Quiz hosted by Jupp, but everything from Buzzcocks via Joe Lycett and Jonathan Pie to the splendid Tom Wrigglesworth's Hang Ups benefits from his light and clever touch.
It's his delicacy with the scripting that allows Jupp to so beautifully copy Tomlinson's breezy and insouciant style, not just through jolly reminiscences about Julie Andrews or sardonic asides about Peter Sellars, but to share Tomlinson's actual backstory including his father's bigamy, first wife's suicide and his son's autism.
And therein lies the beauty of the piece. A wash of charm over Jupp, a Magritte-ish wash of blue colour over the set, a touch of whimsy in his rendition of the song from Mary Poppins and you're ready to go fly a kite in Finsbury Park with Mr Banks.
But also, you learned quite a bit.
The Life I Lead, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, N4 3JP. Tickets £22-£32.50, until 30 March 2019.
Last Updated 22 March 2019