Miles Jupp made Mary Poppins' David Tomlinson live on stage
PUBLISHED: 18:32 11 March 2019
Review: The Life I Lead, Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds until Saturday, March 9
He received his standing ovation with the faintly apologetic air of someone who had arrived fashionably late only to find they needed to make the whole theatre get up so they could reach their seat. But make no mistake, the audience’s response was thoroughly deserved.
It takes true talent to carry a one-man play and Miles Jupp made it look easy - inhabiting the role of David Tomlinson like a pair of comfy slippers and telling his story with a generous heart.
Yes, he is funny, that’s a given, but here he proves he also a wonderfully gifted actor; that rare performer who connects with the audience on a deeper level, taking them on a journey while employing such a deft, delicate manipulation of emotional response that you don’t feel it happening, you just feel.
It must help, of course, that Jupp and Tomlinson were seemingly both cut from the same cloth - both quintessentially English with impeccable manners, gentle charm and a constant air of mild embarrassment.
Indeed, James Kettle was inspired to write ‘The Life I Lead’ specifically for Jupp having spotted their vocal and physical similarities while watching Mary Poppins.
Jupp, Tomlinson, Mr Banks - throw on a bowler hat and moustache and they are practically inseparable.
Using this gift of fate, Kettle employs the protagonist as raconteur of his own experiences. In his perfectly balanced script, he tells the remarkable story without flinching from the sadness but ensuring that, having felt the pain, you are quickly lifted by a suitably stiff upper lip and witty one liner.
From Tomlinson’s difficult relationship with his father, the death of his first wife, his love for his sons and experience in the war, through to his relationship with Walt Disney, that Poppins woman and finally leaving them wanting more.
A joyful rendition of The Life I Lead was the perfect ending to a fascinating biography well told.
Miles Jupp has said that he hopes people come away thinking “I would never have thought he had a life like that” and he can rest assured I was thinking exactly that, while also feeling nothing but admiration for him and his alter-ego.