Tag Archives: Daniel Weyman

“The Mentor” at the Vaudeville Theatre

Best selling German author Daniel Kehlmann’s play, translated by Christopher Hampton, is urbane, witty and stylish. It works around the contrived scenario of an elderly playwright, paid by a philanthropic foundation, advising a younger writer, and is an effective conversation piece.

There are plenty of laughs around the arrogance and insecurity of the new wunderkind, Martin. You know he’s in trouble since a critic has called him the ‘‘voice of his generation’’. Daniel Weyman puts a lot of energy into the role, desperately so at times, but his mania is in keeping with the efficient direction from Laurence Boswell who employs a brisk pace that serves the comedy in the piece well.

When The Mentor takes a more serious tone, it is a hostage to fortune; as it’s observed about Martin’s play, Kehlmann’s also ends up containing neither delight nor despair. Battles about realism in the theatre are fun when smirking about shows with cement mixers in them – we’ve all been there – but when Kehlmann adds his own poetic touches they fall flat. Ideas about Art are barely established, let alone explored.

A subplot about the seduction of Martin’s wife, and the presence of the foundations administrator, are both too thin. The performances, from Naomi Frederick and Jonathan Cullen, are good. But the female character here is there only as a foil for the men; watch out for lines thrown in to bolster character. While the administrator’s decision to jack it all in and become a painter is left hanging, after initially treating his aspirations as a joke.

The evening really only works as a vehicle for Homeland and Amadeus star F Murray Abraham. As the eponymous tutor Benjamin Rubin, he gives a magnetic performance that carries the show. It’s not much of show, so maybe that’s not too hard, but it’s noticeable the energy lifts when he’s on stage. Kehlmann has written a great part here – it’s a shame the idea of Rubin’s senility isn’t explored further. But this old goat, arrogant as they come, makes good company. Although haunted by early success, Rubin has grown into taking art less seriously; a mature observation that’s the perfect lesson about this diverting, if slim, play.

Until 26 August 2017


Photo by Simon Annand

“4000 Days” at the Park Theatre

Peter Quilter’s new play is summarised as a story of “accident, coma, memory loss, vandalism” and shows a recovering patient, torn between trauma, his mother and his lover. The intriguing twist is that Michael, the victim of a freak cerebral haemorrhage, can’t remember the last decade or so – the whole time with his partner Paul – a fact his mother aims to take advantage of.

4000 Days is well performed. Daniel Weyman gives a sensitive portrayal as marketer Paul who, it’s revealed, has attempted to control Michael over the years, stamping on his potential as an artist. This is partly the reason Michael’s mother Carol, played by Maggie Ollerenshaw, hates Paul. Carol “reserves the right to be very disappointed” and Ollerenshaw delivers this blunt-to-the-point-of-brutal, age-induced cynicism perfectly. The tension between Paul and Carol is palpable. It’s taken a coma to get them in the same room, where they fight and even make a competition of the flowers they bring in.

Last but not least, Alistair McGowan renders the role of waspish Michael, who’s recognisable, realistic and far from appealing. Fans of his comedy work beware – McGowan gives a serious and studied performance, stubbornly reining back the script’s wry humour: the pay-off is a nuanced character who raises the issues and observations about relationships Quilter wants to explore. Still, although skilled, it seems odd that all three performers actively stop the laughs landing.

There are nuggets of wisdom and plenty of questions here, if delivered somewhat flatly. Should Michael take the fresh start his mother wants for him or try to recapture, even improve, his relationship? Catching up on what’s happened in the world over the last ten years is a dead end for the play. And similarly the potential drama around what is, after all, a life-threatening condition is not exploited. The overriding problem is director Matt Aston’s slow and static approach, stretching the script to breaking point with a delivery that’s just too lethargic. Nice premise, shame about the pace.

Until 13 February 2016


Photo by Rory Lindsay

“The Comedy of Errors” at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

The Comedy of Errors is perfect for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Shakespeare’s comedy of mistaken identity benefits from being set in London’s most charming venue. It is surprising, then, that this is the first time in 14 years the play has been performed here. Philip Franks’ production is well worth the wait.

Ephesus is transformed into glamorous 1940s Casablanca. As the merchant Egeon roams the town under threat of death, his twin sons and their servants (separated at birth as Shakespearean twins often are) cause havoc as their lives overlap. Daniel Weyman and Daniel Llewelyn-Williams play the twins as matinee idols and do it swooningly well. Joseph Kloska and Josh Cohen as their servants add some delightful comic touches.

During their years of separation the twin living in Ephesus has married. His wife Adriana (Jo Herbert) shows outrage at her husband’s (actually his twin’s) odd behaviour but charms us with her obvious affection for him. After the interval, things really take off as she heads a posse in a slapstick chase to capture him, thinking he has gone mad.

At the risk of sounding blasphemous, Shakespearean comedy can drag a little, and over familiarity with the plot can lead to frustration with characters unable to work out that something is glaringly amiss. Philip Franks keeps the pace fast to avoid the worst of this and has plenty of engaging digressions. With the role of the Courtesan adapted into a nightclub hostess we get some great music – any excuse to hear the fantastic Anna-Jane Casey sing is a good idea. She adds a touch of eccentricity that embodies this colourful, pleasing production and crowns a fine night out.

Until 31 July 2010


Photo by Manuel Harlan

Written 30 June 2010 for The London Magazine