Alex City Quiz Alex Prints and Originals

Daily Mail
October 19th 2007
By Patrick Marmion

Alex by Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor, Arts Theatre, London

He started 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 go flat.
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.