By Stephanie Merritt
Alex, Arts Theatre,
London WC2, until 8 Dec
Robert Bathurst was born to play the
City's most famous investment banker, right down to the extraordinary undulating
hair, especially as he holds the stage without respite for 80 minutes: his
supporting cast are all animated line drawings.
challenge for Alex creators Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor in transferring
their popular newspaper cartoon to the stage is using the comic strip's succinct
conceit and the snappy set-up and punchline. This might explain why the
storyline is flimsy - no more than a hook for the jokes - but Phelim McDermott's
playful direction locates the best comedy in Bathurst's interaction with his
animated colleagues (for whom he also provides the voices), who appear on
various screens positioned about the otherwise bare stage.
There's no room for missed cues or improvisation when you're acting with
projections, and Bathurst keeps the pace up admirably; there's a lovely sequence
which sees him quite literally pulled between his wife and his boss on two
panels either side. This production certainly reinvigorates the Eighties
throwback for a new generation.