Alex City Quiz Alex Prints and Originals

The Observer
October 21st 2007
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.

The greatest 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.