by John Mortimer.

Salisbury Playhouse Malthouse Lane, SP2 7RA To- 2 October 2010.
Mon-Wed 7.30pm Thu-Sat 8pm. Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 30 Sept 2.30pm & 8pm.
BSL Signed 29 Sep.
Post-show Discuission 28 Sept.
Theatre Day 23 Sept 11.30am.
Setting the Scene with Jamie Glove: 15 September, 6.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS: 01722 320333.
Review Mark Courtice 3 September.

Straightforward biog of un-straightforward man.
John Mortimer was an interesting mixture, a "champagne socialist" who supported hunting, a doughty champion of free speech, and a lawyer who wrote vastly successful plays and novels. In this play he explores how much of this is the legacy of the indomitable old man who was his father.

Clifford Mortimer was a contrarian, expert in the law of divorce and wills, who subscribed to the Law’s distancing mechanism of ritual and the lawyers’ mechanism of grim humour. Both helped when he had to deal with losing his sight. When John describes him firing words into the darkness at home and work, the parallel with the playwright is clear.

John took to the Law as an inheritance, and this play entertainingly recounts his early days; his beady eye finding fun in the odd world of prep school and the Law, as well as his time as a disastrously incompetent assistant at the Government Film Unit in the war.

Jamie Glover’s workmanlike production tells all this straight and unvarnished. There is little of Mortimer’s light touch but the touching side is well served, with some subtle underscoring by Simon Allen’s music.

The part of Clifford is one of the best old men in the canon, and Paul Shelley (while being in truth a bit young) gives it a less alarming, more slyly charming performance than some. There isn’t much personality in Ryan Kiggell’s Son, which is fine, but gives him a bit of a mountain to climb at the end, in his touching sense of loss when the old man dies. The women in the Mortimer ménage are much more than foils for the men. Polly Adams gets the equivocation in the seemingly monumental patience of Mother, and Jeany Spark is nicely acerbic as the new addition to the family, wife Elizabeth.

Otherwise the production delivers Mortimer’s autobiography without comment or surprises. Andrew D Edwards’s set reflects Mortimer’s theatrical side with flats representing the house in Buckinghamshire, and a couple of rather small flowerbeds representing the garden in which titanic struggles with earwigs, important conversations and moments of truth took place.

Mother: Polly Adams.
Miss Baker/Matron: Alice Barclay.
Ringer Lean/Mr Thong/George: Andrew Frame.
Son: Ryan Kiggell.
Japhet/Bousted/Mr Morrow: William Oxborrow.
Miss Cox/Reigete’s Mum: Olivia Poulet.
Headmaster/Judges: Christopher Saul.
Father: Paul Shelley.
Elizabeth: Jeany Spark.

Director: Jamie Glover.
Designer: Andrew D Edwards.
Lighting: James Whiteside.
Sound/Music: Simon Allen.

2010-09-08 00:31:26

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