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New Era Players - Dear Lupin

7th to 9th September and 12th to 16th September 2017.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

A poignant dramatisation of letters to wayward son

Dry humour in Roger Mortimer's correspondence to hedonist Charlie

New Era Players: Dear Lupin, at the New Era Theatre, Wash Common, until Saturday, September 16

Roger Mortimer was a renowned horseracing correspondent for the Sunday Times. He lived with his family at Budds Farm, Burghclere, before moving to Kintbury.

His letters to his wayward son Charlie, affectionately known as Lupin, and his replies form a fascinating insight into their relationship and were published in a book, Dear Lupin, and adapted into a very humorous and poignant stage play by Michael Simkins.

New Era Players' production is absolutely superb. It's set in the attic of Mortimer's house after his death when Charlie finds a shoebox containing a hundred or so letters from his father.

The cast are exceedingly impressive. Peter Hendrickx embraces the character of Mortimer with vigour and a sardonic wit as he tries to keep his son on the straight-and-narrow over three decades.

He also plays the key figures that Charlie meets during his life, with beautifully-created cameo characters. These include Montgomery, a job centre official, a camp auctioneer, an army drill sergeant and even a Soho prostitute.

Samuel Prentice deftly plays the part of Charlie. His life is filled with catastrophe, from his sacking from Eton to getting caught poaching in Windsor Great Park.

His holiday adventure to Greece is greeted with dismay by his father, who tells him "Don't get diarrhoea out there. If nothing else it's not an easy word to spell".

Lupin follows a hedonistic lifestyle of drinking, drugs and gay sex in a time when the Aids epidemic was wreaking havoc in the nation and he tests positive for HIV.

His foray into joining the army, where he started as a raw squaddie, was a turning-point in his life, but he turned down an opportunity to become an officer, in a defiant gesture against his father.

After the interval, the play took on a darker tone, with Roger in poor health and admitted to Basingstoke hospital, with disastrous consequences. The scene towards the end when father and son said their goodbyes and were reconciled was most moving.

Astutely directed by Margaret Rigby and Vikki Goldsmith, this was a most enjoyable production and is highly recommended.