Benet Catty Productions

The Mentalists (WE 2015)

Jul 16, 2015

Wyndhams, London

This is the worst show in London.

Richard Bean's comedy was written years before One Man Two Guv'nors made his name. It is a limp and leaden two hours that might amuse at the Edinburgh Festival but is ill-suited to a 1,000-seat West End theatre.

Stephen Merchant, for all his earnest appeal, is no actor and proves it here. Co-star Steffan Rhodri at least finds the laddish Richard Bean style and gives coherence to a part that has little to do or say until the second half.

Two guys with a long friendship arrive in a hotel. Ted (Merchant) is having trouble getting the hotel to accept his credit card. He gets his friend Morrie (Rhodri) to film him giving a long speech (during which Merchant dried the night I saw it, deploying the old "Where was I?" trick). The speech is about crime and global warming and other social ills. Why he is doing this is unclear. Interval.

In Act Two it turns out the global warming speech has been recorded on top of a porn video Morrie has made as a sideline to his hairdressing career. And that Merchant has killed someone and the police are on their way. His friend gives him a hair cut - the subtlest in recorded history - and the police arrive. The end.

There is a light dusting of amusing one-liners sprinkled across the evening, particularly at the top of the second act. But despite one man being a killer, the other a liar and both having met in care, there are precious few moments of psychological interest in this play with a title implying the presence of madness.

Merchant, famous for comedy, proves surprisingly poor at delivering one-liners. And director Abbey Wright gives him some preposterous blocking. He stands on top of the hotel bed and yells. (Twice in fact.) She has him on all fours. She has him deliver two of the worst stage slaps you'll ever see. And we hear footsteps outside the door (and knocking on it) several times, but then later we're told the police have tried unsuccessfully to batter the door down which neither we nor the characters heard at all. Ridiculous.

Wyndhams has recently hosted terrific revivals of masterpieces by Arthur Miller and David Mamet. But those hot properties are now followed by his cold turkey.

You'd have to be mad to buy a ticket.

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