German playwright Daniel Kehlmann has fashioned a spiky comedy from the tension between an uppity old writer who is paid to mentor a precocious new playwright, who's been hailed as the 'voice of his generation'. Thanks to an art foundation's funding, two writers, a wife and an administrator are due to spend a week in a villa. Cue inevitable rivalry and plenty of prophesying on the state of literature and the nature of talent.
Christopher Hampton's English translation captures the cadences of the competition and resentment to comic effect. The production comes to London's Vaudeville Theatre after opening in Bath earlier this year.
F. Murray Abraham (who took the best actor Oscar for his toxic Salieri, in 1984's Amadeus and played Dar Adal in Homeland) makes his first West End appearance for ten years as cranky, caustic older writer, Benjamin Rubin. He delivers his diva-worthy demands with a devilish twinkle in the eye, and remains insouciant as he doles out increasingly scathing feedback. In contrast Daniel Weyman as the younger writer Martin Wegner shifts from arrogance to hysteria, interrogating his wife Gina and begging for approval.
Cross-generational and creative rivalry comes to a somewhat predictable crescendo involving an older man seducing the younger woman. For every older man laughing along in the audience there'll be a woman rolling her eyes (or at least this young female critic was).
At its best, The Mentor shines with knowing comedy. Kehlmann captures the many headed Hydra of ego, from smug self-satisfaction down to raw insecurity. But it's the middle ground, the insights into the daily selfishness and paranoias that feel the sharpest.
|What||The Mentor, Vaudeville Theatre review|
|Where||Vaudeville Theatre, 404 Strand, London, WC2R 0NH | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
24 Jun 17 – 02 Sep 17, 7:45 AM – 9:30 AM
|Website||Click here to book tickets|