The Life I Lead, Bath Theatre Royal

THE majority of the audience at Bath Theatre Royal on Tuesday couldn’t get enough of Miles Jupp (as David Tomlinson) talking about his time as Mr Banks.

His role in the 1964 film Mary Poppins is how the actor, born in 1917, is best remembered. Now James Kettle has written a solo show, specifically for comedian Jupp, to celebrate the life of the beloved Eng­lishman in his bowler hat.

Played on an “after Magritte” set designed by Lee Newby, the delightfully affectionate show in at Bath until 31st August, after which it returns to London at Wyndham’s Theatre in September, by pop­ular demand.

As the writer must have realised, Jupp is the perfect actor to bring Tomlinson’s life to a wider public. He’s diffident, naughtily reckless, self-effacing, passionate and very funny.  Even when he bumblingly leads his audience through some of the more surprising aspects of his family life, he does it without pleas for sympathy.

His undemonstrative father, hiding a guilty secret and taking it out on his nervous but loving children, might be the psychologists’ reason for David’s hero worship of Walt Disney.

The jobbing actor toured the country learning his craft before he was “spotted” and whisked to the home of the Silver Screen.

The Life I Lead captures both the period and the style when David Tomlinson was at his peak, and the actor’s glee at the tricks he played on his colleagues and friends.

It’s a gentle, funny play brilliantly observed to the tiniest detail by Miles Jupp, and delicately directed by Selina Cadell. See it if you can.


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