The Life I Lead, James Kettle. 5*****, Birmingham Rep and Touring; Rod Dungate


The Life I Lead: James Kettle


Birmingham Rep Studio till 16 March and Turing

Runs: 1h 45m, one interval

Bham Rep BO: 0121 236 4455

Review: Rod Dungate, 13 March 2019


The Life I Lead is a terrific show. It’s relaxed, gentle, informative and full of beautiful insights. James Kettle’s play centres around the life of David Tomlinson, stage, television and film acgtor from the mid 20th Century. Tomlinson is best remembered for his roles in Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Brroomsticksi.

Tomlinson had a most successful career but in many ways he was a ‘glass half empty’ kind of guy. Though of course you would never have known it, a true English gent Tomlinson was not prone to showing his emotions. Kettle’s script lets us in on the ups and downs (some of them truly traumatic events), yet a mark of Miles Jupp’s extraordinary performance is his ability to distance his character from the emotions while, as an actor, playing on our emotions to draw us into his world and keep us there.

Much of the humour in Kettle’s script comes from understatement or subversion always based on acute observation. Jupp plays these effects superbly, with grace and charm drawing out the laughter from us.

Although emotions in the play are always held in check, this is a play about love and the power of love. Again Jupp handles this with great skill and shapes his performance expertly. As revelations reveal new facts requiring us to reassess our views of learned details a strong sense of forward motion is maintained.

The directors Didi Hopkins and Selina Cadell have worked sensitively with actor and script to create this unique and touching event.

Cormac Richards’ 5***** review from the show opening in Exeter in February is here:

David Tomlinson: Miles Jupp

Directors: Didi Hopkins, Selina Cadell

Designer: Lee Newby

Lighting Designer: Matthew England

Music: Eliza Thompson

Associate Director: Rachael Hewer


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