Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Alex

Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor
Arts Theatre
(2007)

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Somewhat unusually, the Arts Theatre was packed with men in dark suits for an evening performance of this solo comedy. In that its subject is an investment banker, one can only conclude that so were many members of the audience.

If so, Alex is somewhat dated now, since by observing his guests it becomes apparent that the tie is no longer de rigueur in the city and more interestingly, the embarrassingly misogynistic fraternity of bankers now includes a substantial sorority.

Anybody who has looked at the business pages of The Daily Telegraph in the last fifteen years will have spotted their city cartoon. This features a besuited upper-class twit named Alex who somehow breezes his way through life making vast amounts of money - wherever possible without working for it.

With the assistance of Improbable Theatre's Phelim McDermott who directs Robert Bathurst, Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor, the writers of the cartoon, have taken the brave step of bringing their man to life on stage, if only for 80 minutes a night.

Unless you happen to be an investment banker, or someone who works with them a great deal, there is a possibility that this story, told by an idiot, might give you fewer laughs than the writers had intended, and those mostly from old, predictable chestnuts.

Where it really scores is in an adventurous production style featuring (moving) cartoons that stretch across up to a dozen screens and allow one man on stage to interact with many others, including even the odd token woman.

The story is simple enough. When taking on a new client, rather than checking them out properly, Alex had attended the Headingley Test.

It is inevitable that when things go wrong, not only is his boss Rupert jumping up and down but so is Alex' wife Penny who is threatening divorce. She is a very unhappy bunny, driven to distraction by the hero's weak and absent sperm, not to mention his stashed away funds.

All comes right in the end, mainly thanks to a bit of blackmail involving the boss' unacknowledged French son and the consequences of some market movements that will be unintelligible to the uninitiated.

The cartoon work is often brilliantly witty, and Bathurst's interaction with half a dozen black and white characters both impressive and amusing. The problem with this evening is that, when brought to life, Alex is at least as two-dimensional as the cartoons. The producers will probably not be too worried about this as there is a ready-made city market for a shortish run and they will probably be laughing all the way to the bank.

Rachel Sheridan reviewed the 2008 revival at the Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewer: Philip Fisher