By Patrick Marmion
Alex by Charles
Peattie and Russell Taylor, Arts Theatre, London
out in the London Daily News during the Yuppie champagne days of 1987 and now
Alex the cartoon adventure capitalist must be pretty pleased with himself.
After the windfall of acquisition by the Independent and a hostile takeover
by the Daily Telegraph in 1992, this West End stage version of his life starring
Robert Bathurst looks set to net him and his creators a tidy Christmas bonus.
Just like the cartoon, it’s an ingenious little show (just 80
minutes) that finds Alex in a series of scrapes with wife Penny (‘someone who’s
there for me but doesn’t know what I’m up to’) as he tries to sort out the
plummeting share price of his northern industrialist client Mr Hardcastle (‘he
actually makes things and he’s not even Chinese’).
But as things
go tot hell in a hedge fund, it’s Sebastian, Alex’s Eurotrash junior, that’s
lined up for the fall.
There are moments that are absolutely
priceless – sorry, offer ‘stratospheric market potential’ – in this show which
is brilliantly constructed by Phelim McDermott together with Alex’s writer
Russell Taylor and draftsman Charles Peattie.
They have Bathurst
interacting with the ink-drawn cartoon figures animated on a corporate melange
of power point and flip charts, all of which incorporate Bathurst’s limbs,
shadow and famous nose as required.
Meanwhile, euphemisms such
as a crashed share price talked up as ‘positioned for recovery’ all make
gorgeous comic assets.
But interacting with cartoon characters can also
Moreover there is some stilted dialogue as Bathurst is forced
to speak the lines for the other characters. But you’ve got to hand it to him
and the team: this is as fiendishly cunning a piece of work as anything
concocted by the finest creative accountants in the square mile.
What’s more, you couldn’t wish for a more perfect Alex than Bathurst, who is a
delightfully loveable toad.
His hooter may not be quite as colossal as
that of his pictorial counterpart, but underneath the snobbery, xenophobia and
simple-minded devotion to sport and money, there is a charming old card who you
would cheerfully pay for lunch with.
Bathurst has that good bloke
quality which has kept his stock high in TV shows such as Cold Feet and now
looks set to ensure this is a market leader in the West End FTSE 100.