The Mentor – Vaudeville Theatre until 2nd September
Review By Franco Milazzo
There are few sights more engaging than a battle of the egos and that is just what Daniel Kehlman’s The Mentor serves up.
Benjamin Rubin (F Murray Abraham) wrote his one hit play decades ago at the age of 24 and has not tasted success again. He is asked (and paid handsomely) by an art foundation to mentor up-and-coming writer Martin Wegner (Daniel Weyman). The wunderkind’s last play “Night, Fog” featured a choir and a concrete mixer and his latest opus deliberately has no title.
Rubin is there for the money to pay off his ex-wives while Wegner wants to take the next step towards the fame and fortune he feels he well deserves.
Between the two are Gina Wegner who supports her husband’s career even as she doubts his talent and Erwin Rudicek, a Rubin fanboy who has set up the meeting on behalf of the foundation. Top tip, Erwin: never meet your heroes.
Armed as they are with wholesale quantities of hubris, watching Rubin and Wegner exchange barbed banter is sheer joy. Abraham is quite superb in a role in which he gets to play a pompous ass (“weather is overrated” he arrogantly opines at one point) who unconsciously, or possibly unashamedly, repeats his favourite lines. Opposite him, Weyman portrays the very epitome of a self-centred artist who peddles style over substance as a modern-day virtue. The American actor gets the wittier lines both by quantity and quality but the rest of the cast give as good as they get.
Kehlman’s script has been translated by Christopher Hampton who most famously adapted French writer Yasmin Reza’s play Art for the London stage. As in that work, The Mentor has its occasional bouts of philosophical navel-gazing but, in general, this play flies along from soup to nuts. Despite there being no interval, the ninety-minute running time is over before you know it.
VAUDEVILLE THEATRE, LONDON
Monday to Saturday at 7.45pn
Thursday and Saturday at 3pm
Opened 24th June
Last performance: Saturday 2 September
Box Office: 0330 333 4814
Groups: 0330 333 4817
Access: 0330 333 4815