Based on the best-selling novel of the same name and adapted for the stage by Michael Simkins, ‘Dear Lupin’ tells the story of racing pundit, and national treasure, Roger Mortimer and his relationship with his son Charlie, whom he calls Lupin, through a lifetime of letters.
From his 18th birthday we race through 25 years of shared events, given clues to our place in history with references to popular TV shows of the day or the price of petrol. Despite the years the play covers it doesn’t feel like a gallop, merely a leisurely trot through the lives of these two men, who share something very special.
This is brought to life as the two actors on stage are father and son in real life. Their bond is especially evident in some of the more poignant scenes, where no amount of theatrical training can betray the love in their eyes for each other.
James Fox is of course a legendary actor with many credits to his name, he brings Mortimer to life in a colourful, humorous and respectful manner. His dry wit and dead pan delivery reminds me of classic British comedy such as Victoria Woods ‘Dinnerladies’.
Being a two hander could have proven difficult, especially as much of the plot revolves around Lupins’ time at Eton, military school and along various career paths, but James Fox brings life to many of the characters, including Field Marshall Montgomery and a Soho prostitute. It is in these scenes that the comedy comes in to its own, all be it an old time comedy, a gentler comedy we are losing and will surely miss.
Jack Fox is a delight to watch and gives no sign of being intimidated by his more experienced father. He bounds back and forth across the stage with seemingly endless enthusiasm, only slowing when the characters ‘alternative lifestyle’ begins to catch up with him. He moves from cheeky chappie, to drug and alcohol addict, and back to caring son with ease. It is in the final scenes we see the respect and love for his father overflow in abundant quantity.
The set is the parental home, semi packed-up and littered with belongings and artefacts steeped in family history. It all seemed so familiar to me and I realised it reminded me of my grandparents’ home. As the play neared its end I willed it to continue, I wanted to move in to their family home – take up residence and keep on living Lupins life with him, waiting for the next letter packed full of advice, and comedy gold, to arrive.
This play is something rare on the West End, it has a gentle beauty to it that we will all recognise. The way we ignore parental advice, the way we keep secrets to avoid hurting the ones we love. The way we realise, sometimes too late, just how lucky we are to have someone there for us when we need them most.
Watching ‘Dear Lupin’ will make you laugh a lot, and possibly cry a little, but most of all will leave you feeling warm, fuzzy and full of nostalgia.