Best remembered for playing Mr Banks in Disney’s Mary Poppins, and Professor Brown in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, David Tomlinson was renowned for playing the classic English gentleman. We discover in the play, The Life I Lead, by James Kettle, that the person behind this gentleman actor was quite complex.

Miles Jupp, one of Britain’s leading stand-up comedians and actors (The Thick of It, The News Quiz, and The Durrells) brings David Tomlinson’s remarkable story to life in this one-man-show.

Valley News was interested to hear how James had the idea of writing about David Tomlinson and setting it as a one-man show.

Miles Jupp

“I wrote the play for Miles. While I was watching Mary Poppins it struck me that there were some vocal and physical similarities between Tomlinson and Miles,” James said.

“I wanted to have Miles portraying all the different characters in Tomlinson’s life, and I had immense confidence that Miles would be able to carry that off brilliantly. He’s the kind of performer, like Tomlinson, who can make you laugh but also move you.”

It is a story about the relationship between father and sons. When people come to watch it: “I would like them to feel fascinated by the true story of an icon of our childhoods and recognise things that are true about fathers and sons,” James said.

“I would like them to laugh and enjoy the comic side of the show, while it has moments of darkness it is ultimately a life-affirming story.”

Is Miles looking forward to acting in The Life I Lead? “I’m excited and intimidated by this script. I get to do things I haven’t done as an actor. Although it has a lot of funny and light moments, there are aspects that are heavier than anything I’ve been tasked with conveying before.”

The play started touring in February and comes to Salisbury on March 14-16.

“For me, it’s one of the greatest delights to tour to places all over the United Kingdom. I love the feeling of going somewhere, putting on a show and people being there. And I love turning up to theatres. I sometimes think the best view of the theatre is the view from the stage, looking out… I hope that won’t be the case for this audience, of course. I hope it will be a tremendous joy for people facing the opposite way to me!”

David Tomlinson obviously had an extraordinary life, “I hope they’ll be entertained, moved and made to think,” Miles said. “And I want people to come away thinking ‘I would never have thought he had a life like that.’”

The Life I Lead, Salisbury Playhouse March 14-16

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