Daniel Kehlmann may not be particularly well known as a playwright in this country. In his native Germany, however, his writings outsell the likes of J.K. Rowling, and The Mentor, translated by Christopher Hampton has already won acclaim following its premiere in Bath just a few short months ago. Now it’s transferred to the Vaudeville Theatre, directed by Laurence Boswell.
The Mentor is a play about playwrights, one older and more experienced, the other younger, and unaware of his shortcomings. Benjamin Rubin, writer of several plays, but really only known for one, complains about everything and wheels out a clearly familiar repertoire of small talk, “Cragganmore may not be the best whisky in the world, but it is very drinkable”.
The egocentric has been paid to spend five days at a country retreat acting as a mentor to the up and coming Martin Wegner (Daniel Weyman), who is accompanied by his successful wife, Gina (Naomi Frederick).
Organised by an arts institute, Erwin Rudicek (Jonathan Cullen) has been charged with organising the running of the retreat and finds himself catering to Rubin’s every whim. When Rubin is less than complimentary about Wegner’s work, the latter storms out of the retreat leaving his already disillusioned wife alone with Rubin.
It’s a nicely written play that meanders along at a reasonable pace, there’s some good exploration of the important themes, despite it’s relatively short running time. The staging looks appealing with a simple set that creates the right ambience.
The strongest selling point is F Murray Abraham in the role of Rubin, he delivers scorn like a hot knife through butter and raises more than a few laughs from the audience. He is ably supported by a strong cast, especially Daniel Weyman.
This is a pretty safe, middle of the road kind of production. There’s nothing much not to like, but it’s also difficult to find anything to shout about, other than the cast. The Mentor may not be the best play in the world, but it is very watchable.