David Cecil MacAlister Tomlinson was a polite, genial, diffident actor.

Miles Hugh Barrett Jupp is a polite, genial, diffident comedian.

They are clearly made for each other, and in this gentle, charming one-man play The Life I Lead, they form an easy companionship throughout what’s only a slightly over-long evening.

Most Radio 4 enthusiasts could listen to Jupp read the telephone directory, but the stories of Tomlinson’s life and career – of which it has to be said playing Mr Banks in the 1964 movie Mary Poppins was both the pinnacle and almost the end of his acting – are sweet and funny and occasionally hilarious especially in his insulting and then flattering of Walt Disney, for whom he was the epitome of an English gentleman.

The script is by the unsung hero of Radio 4 comedy, James Kettle, not only lead writer on The News Quiz hosted by Jupp, so a natural dovetail there, but everything from Buzzcocks via Joe Lycett and Jonathan Pie to my favourite Tom Wrigglesworth’s Hang Ups benefits from his light and clever touch.

It’s this delicacy with the scripting that allows Jupp to so beautifully copy Tomlinson’s breezy and insouciant style not just through jolly reminiscences about Julie Andrews or sardonic asides about Peter Sellers, but to share Tomlinson’s actual backstory including his father’s bigamy, first wife’s suicide and his son’s autism.

And therein lies the beauty of the piece. A wash of charm over Jupp, a Magritte-ish wash of sky blue colour over the set, a touch of whimsy in his rendition of the song from Mary Poppins and you’re ready to go fly a kite in Finsbury Park with Mr Banks.

But also, you learned quite a bit.


until 30 March