The Life I Lead: Park 200, London's Park Theatre, Finsbury Park
Who could forget the quintessentially British gentleman Mr Banks (Mary Poppins 1964) or Professor Emelius Browne (Bedknobs and Broomsticks 1967) and the dastardly Peter Thorndyke (1968 The Love Bug)? With such a timeless quality, our warmth towards David Tomlinson does not waver. Memories are made of this and the Park Theatre presents a poignant homage to this upright gentleman whose stiff upper lip and received pronunciation defined his character.

But of course this was Tomlinson the actor. Beneath the charming veneer was a troubled man who battled many demons, including the huge heartbreak of the suicide of his first wife with their two sons (Michael and John), the duplicitous life of his father and his battle to have his son, Willie, recognised as one of the first British cases of autism. Yes, he was a fighter not only in World War II as a fighter pilot but also in life.

The Life I Lead sees Miles Jupp,stand up comic and acclaimed actor (Mock the Week, The News Quiz, Neville's Island, to name but a few) bring to the stage the remarkable life of David Tomlinson. Not an easy feat this. To play the moustached, bowler hatted man of bygone days for near on two hours and succeed in a realistic and compassionate portrayal is to be applauded. His ability to convince, involve and share is seemingly effortless and entirely natural. Jupp will admit that he has a connection with Tomlinson and was delighted to be invited to play the role by friend/writer James Kettle. The script and direction (Didi Hopkins/Selina Cadell) offer candour and grace, taking the audience on a shifting tide with emotions changing at each juncture. Together, and with the subtle variances of lighting (Matthew Eagland) and music (Eliza Thompson) this team have achieved a fitting tribute to this very gentle gentleman, who was well deserving of his immortal position in Disney's Hall of Fame.
 
As he presents anecdote after anecdote from the Disney-esque turquoise checkered heaven, Jupp confidently and assuredly strides across the unobtrusive set, (Lee Newby), filling it with his storm of words and characterisations. Never failing to show a stiff upper lip, there is still a vulnerability to his portrayal which carries the audience through the vast range of emotions. 

This is a charming production which is respectful in its portrayal of the troubled and enigmatic Tomlinson. Jupp has played his role with commitment, honesty and integrity and has made the performance his own. It is hard to believe he has a script to follow as he releases his words with ease and confidence and is able to move us in his vulnerability and self depreciation.

Do you need to know the back story of Tomlinson before you see this play? I don't believe you do. As Tomlinson/Jupp maintained, retain the magic and hold on to the memories.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes including an interval.

Photography: Piers Foley
 
THE LIFE I LEAD 

Venue: Park200, Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP
Dates: 18 March - 30 March 2019
Performances: Evenings Mon-Sat 7.30 pm  Matinees Thur & Sat 3 pm
British sign language: Thur 28 March 2019
Age Guidance: 12+
Booking: www.parktheatre.co.uk / 020 7870 6876