Dear Lupin

Posted by Laurence Green

In spite of reservations, Dear Lupin, proves to be a sad but essentially life-affirming look at the things that bind us together as human beings, writes Laurence Green.

Dear Lupin. James Fox (Roger Mortimer) and Jack Fox (Charlie Mortimer). Photo credit Manuel Harlan

It is a pleasure when your worst fears about a show prove unfounded and you find yourself pleasantly surprised. But this indeed the case with Philip Franks' witty and poignant production of Dear Lupin (Apollo Theatre). the play is based on the bestselling book by Charles Mortimer which the author adapted from the private letters written by his late father Roger Mortimer, and has been adapted for the stage by Michael Simkins.

This is the story of the relationship between celebrated Sunday Times racing correspondent Roger Mortimer and his wayward son Charlie, fondly nicknamed Lupin after Mr Pooter's similarity disreputable offspring in The Diary of a Nobody. Roger was commissioned into the Coldstream Guards, fought at Dunkirk, was taken as a POW, before taking up a career in journalism. Charlie left Eton early and ignominiously before embarking on a mind-boggling array of jobs and years of "drunken hedonism".

Roger's hilarious, touching and always generous letters to Charlie are packed with crisp anecdotes and sharp observations such as "half the racing world can't read and the other half are skint" or his definition of "an engaging raconteur" as "long-winded speak for crashing bore!" Spanning twenty-five years their correspondence forms a memoir of their relationship and an affectionate portrait of a time gone by.

It was an inspired move to have real life acting dynasty James and Jack Fox play Roger and Charlie, father and son, respectively, and the production captures well the subtle mood of a very English understatement. Fox senior's customary suave detachment is a fine match for Roger's tone and it is a joy to hear how the exasperated father gives out tips on how to survive life, boarding at Eton, and how to stay safe driving actors Europe, all of which fall on deaf ears. Fox junior, twinkling with an edge of mischief embraces the exuberant and energetic character of Charlie, taking great delight in recounting his escapades.

To flesh out the narrative Fox senior brings a host of colourful characters to life including an ageing Soho prostitute, Earl Montgomery (who duly tells Lupin that he's a "disgrace... to the British Empire") and a lavishly camp auctioneer. There is a shift in tone in the second half from humour to pathos as Charlie succumbs to drink and drug s and the health of both father and son starts to decline something the charmed life they've lived, old Etonians both can't insulate them from.

This them is a funny, sad but essentially life-affirming look at the things that bind us together as human beings.

Dear Lupin

Runs until 19 September 2015

Box office: 0844 482 9671

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