It all started with “Dear Lupin…: Letters to a Wayward Son”, a book turned bestseller in 2012. The booked is formed of letters by racing correspondent Roger Mortimer to his son, Charlie Mortimer, who eventually is given by his father the nickname Lupin (from “Diary of a Nobody”). The letters have been collected over the years and allow us to follow the lives of the two authors. Now, it is well known the difficulty of adapting this type of book to stage. You need to get the correct balance when it comes to plot, the narrative flow and the witticism. Eventually, Michael Simkins took that step and, 2-3 years later, turned it into a stage play. A play that is performed with exceptional technique by real-life father and son, James and Jack Fox.
In the play the role of Charlie has been somewhat extended and this gives the audience the opportunity to follow more closely both his ups and downs. Charlie has been transformed from a simple recipient of the letters into a fully involved character. Throughout the duration of the play he allows us to share both his funny moments, such us the impersonation of Elvis, and difficult ones, like his rehab experience. The role fits Jack Fox like a glove. He is witty and full of life. Casual, yet fully invested. Even if this was his first big role on stage, Jack presents us with a strong character and unveils the great potential he has.
It is worth mentioning that a lot of the best lines are given to James Fox. He makes the best out of it. There are clear moments when the audience can see how brilliantly he portrays Roger. That is also proven by the different characters he gets into as the play advances: a Soho sex worker, Field Marshal Montgomery, a sergeant major and a vibrant auctioneer. With the passing of years, Roger shows us more and more of his actual humanity. We get to see different sides of this Englishman, from a secret sympathizer of rebellion to sometimes a clueless innocent.
Roger’s letters to his son are turned into a dialogue that allows us to better witness the relationship they shared. The play begins on a very funny tone, that gets a greater depth with the passing of time. Yes, some anecdotes may have been left behind, but the very well executed transformation will stop you from noticing. Also, the play offers a bit more of background information that proves helpful when it comes to the understanding of the plot.
What weights enormously is the actual connection James and Jack Fox have. The casting director couldn’t have done a better job. This genuine and natural father-son relationship wins the audience immediately. There were fascinating glimpses when you could see the admiration in Jack’s eyes. Right now, it would be extremely hard to picture better suited actors for this job. Someone that would have the both the technique and the depth to portray the characters.
The final part of the play is probably the best to prove all the above. I am moved by a good play. I value and appreciate it. And I am glad that nowadays theatre is somehow coming back. However, it is quite hard to involve the audience as profoundly as this team has achieved. Dear Lupin is a testimonial that has managed to move most of the people present to tears. It’s a must see tribute to the father-son relationship.
Dear Lupin runs at the Apollo Theatre until the 19th of September.