There is something intriguing about this wonderful one-man show portraying the understated charm of an English icon... or, rather, three.

It tells the extraordinary story of the film and stage actor David Tomlinson, but it’s hard to separate him from his best known character, Mr Banks in Disney’s classic Mary Poppins. Yet it’s appeal lies with the man playing him, the extraordinarily versatile character actor and comedian Miles Jupp.

Jupp (who younger readers, or parents, may remember from Balamory, and others will recognise from Rev, The News Quiz or his own delightfully self-deprecating stand-up) makes Tomlinson – and Banks – his own. Not only is he possessed of the perfect looks (despite his comparative youth) but also their gentlemanly mannerisms and speech, so much so that Jupp barely needs to adjust his regular persona to inhabit his character. This makes him absolutely perfect and a true delight to watch – and, more importantly, listen to.

In some ways, this is a play which shouldn’t work. It’s essentially a monologue on a sparsely set stage in which we hear anecdotes of a little known actor. Yet it enthrals and we sat absorbed as what, on the surface, appears to be a most conventional Home Counties existence is turned on its head.

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There is wartime drama, heartbreak, and the pain of Tomlinson’s struggles to have his son Willie recognised as one of the first British cases of autism. And then there’s his relationship with his own father – a stereotypical city gent with a dark secret.

Jupp channels the gentlemanly Tomlinson with charm and affection. He keeps us in the palm of his hand with his beautifully clipped delivery – a sustained conversational style which begins with him breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly.

The Oxford Times:

Writer James Kettle and the masterly Jupp shed light on the gentle soul who brightened our childhoods as the loveable stereotypical Englishmen Mr Banks and Professor Emelius Browne in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

I’ll never look at a pencil moustache and bowler hat in the same way again.

TIM HUGHES

5/5