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Kipling tale is exceedingly well performed, if a little dull



Review by David Munro

MY BOY Jack at the Richmond Theatre deals with the latter part of the life of Rudyard Kipling, starting with his successful attempts to get his myopic son, Jack, into the Army during the first World War.

Thereafter, his life is tormented by the loss of his son in the war, and his failure to find out what happened to him, and ends after his daughter’s marriage, when he and his wife settle down to a bleak old age.

I am not aware what the present generation know of Kipling, other than he is the author of The Jungle Book, and, possibly, Captain Courageous.

As a poet, he is now unfashionable, so it is a moot question whether a play based on him can be of any current interest.

Clearly, David Haig considers it is, and certainly his performance of the fussy, demanding little Bateman-like man he portrays, measures up to what one has read about Kipling.

But having created the character, there is little or no dramatic suspense in his life as depicted.

There are the set pieces of the son’s life in the trenches, the arrival of the fateful telegram, his playing with his children, his daughter’s wedding, etc, but these are vignettes, effective enough in their way, but never creating a cohesive whole.

The acting is first rate. David Haig’s Kipling is a believable, and touching, if not very likeable character. Belinda Lang makes a sympathetic study of his put-upon wife and the rest of the cast fill out the background as soldiers and others.

Ben Silverstone does what he can with the part of the son, and develops convincingly from the father-dominated boy to the efficient officer, even if the noise of battle in the trench scenes made it difficult, at times, to hear the lines.

As his sister, Elsie, Rosanna Lavelle fleshes out a rather underwritten part, but she, like the rest of the characters, are really only there to underline Kipling’s internal conflicts.

As you will have gathered, it is a sombre play and one my grandmother would have described as ‘worthy’.

Were it not for the performances, one suspicions that it would be rather dull, also.

As it is, with this cast, and if you are prepared for a thoughtful evening, it is worth seeing - a load of laughs, however, it is not.

My Boy Jack, by David Haig. Director, John Dove; Set and costume designer, Michael Taylor; Lighting, Mathew England; Sound, Gregory Clarke.
WITH: David Haig; Belinda Lang; Ben Silverstone; Fred Ridgeway; Chris Moran; Rosanna Lavelle; Simon Wolfe; Stirling Gee; Stephanie Snook; David Frederickson; Robert Jack; Judith Rae; Poppy Roberts.
Producer, Kennth H Wax Ltd, Nick Brooke Ltd and Haig Lang Productions, in association with the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.
Richmond Theatre, The Little Green , Richmond, Surrey.
Mon – Sat: 7.45pm; Mat: Wed & Sat: 2.30pm. Box Office: 020 8940 0088.

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