Previewed 3 July 2015, Opened 13 July 2015, Closed 29 August 2015 at the Wyndham's Theatre in London
A major revival of Richard Bean's comedy The Mentalists in London starring Stephen Merchant, in his West End stage debut, and Steffan Rhodri.
War, poverty, corruption, spiralling taxes, bad behaviour, inter-personal violence and over-population. Do these things worry you? Holed up in a faceless Finsbury Park hotel room middle-aged fleet manager Ted and Morrie are forced to confront the darker side of their unique relationship. Things unravel as the pressure mounts in this hilarious and touching tale of friendship and utopian visions gone awry in this darkly funny play from Richard Bean.
The cast for this two-hander features Stephen Merchant as 'Ted' and Steffan Rhodri as 'Morrie'. It is directed by Abbey Wright with designs by Richard Kent and lighting by David Plater.
When this production opened in July 2015, Paul Taylor in the Independent praised "Abbey Wright's enjoyable revival" adding that Stephen Merchant gives "an impressive West End debut." John Nathan in the London Metro thought that "the real star is the play - a closely observed study of how a friendship copes when a friend goes off the rails. And it's brimming with well-crafted gags that could have been written yesterday." Dominic Maxwell in the Times commented how it makes "for an entertaining and unusual evening... and Richard Bean draws on his backgrounds as stand-up comedian and psychologist to depict damaged middle-aged men in a way that is meandering but full of dark wit and, finally, tenderness too." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail said that it contained "a few moments of distinctly English mirth but it is a slight offering Ė a half-hour skit stretched to almost two hours with interval, presumably to boost bar takings at Wyndhamís Theatre." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph wrote that, "as a diverting summer filler, a small play starring a tall, theatrical novice, this is well worth a look." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times highlighted that, "despite the fact that it is often sharply funny and acutely observant, and despite the presence of Stephen Merchant and Steffan Rhodri, the play's strange mix of ingredients doesn't quite come together and it ends up feeling oddly flimsy," adding that "incident by incident, the play is very droll and this is beautifully worked by Merchant and Rhodri... but for all its quirky originality, the play leaves you feeling short-changed." Neil Norman in the Daily Express explained that "as with much of Beanís work the jokes come fast and furious and for much of the first half there is little to grip the attention beyond the next gag. Things change dramatically in the second half which becomes a compassionate study of two socially dispossessed men whose enduring friendship is the only thing that sustains them." Michael Billington in the Guardian wrote that "while Stephen Merchant is a perfectly capable actor and Richard Bean's play has a peculiar charm, I can't help feeling that a modest piece has been inflated to make a pricey West End star vehicle." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard said that it "feels like a somewhat strange choice for the West End... when a plot finally materialises itís outlandish without being intriguingly so, and too much of what precedes it is inert."
Stephen Merchant is best known for his roles in the television series The Office, Extras and Hello Ladies. Steffan Rhodri's recent London stage credits include Laura Wade's Posh (Duke of York's Theatre 2012), Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends (Harold Pinter Theatre 2012), Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park (Royal Court Theatre 2010) and Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party (Ambassadors Theatre 2002). Richard Bean's recent West End writing credits include Great Britain (National Theatre 2014, Haymarket Theatre 2014), One Man, Two Guvnors (National Theatre 2011, Adelphi Theatre 2011, Haymarket Theatre 2012) and the adaptation of the film for the stage musical Made in Dagenham (Adelphi Theatre 2014). The Mentalists was originally seen in 2002 as part of the National Theatre's Lyttelton Loft's Transformation season when it features Michael Feast as 'Ted' and Duncan Preston as Morrie'.
"It's an odd, quirky, sometimes downright obscure play, with the setup of two men having a rambling, occasionally unsettling conversation in a single enclosed space faintly Pinterish in mood, though never with his outright menace... Richard Bean has since given us terrific comedies such as One Man, Two Guvnors and Great Britain, but this is an earlier work, first staged in 2002, and it shows. It drags at times, Abbey Wright's direction is workmanlike but not startling... But the performances by Stephen Merchant and Steffan Rhodri are delightful... Though it's meandering and vaguely plotted, it's also thought-provoking and unexpectedly poignant by the end." The Sunday Times
"Richard Bean's slight comedy focuses on Ted, a mentally unstable middle manager, who has found salvation in the unlikely form of the behavioural psychologist, BF Skinner. Eager to convince others, he asks his friend, Morrie, a hairdresser and amateur pornographer, to video his six-hour message to the world. Fortunately, the audience only has to watch snippets. Meanwhile, the two men hide out in a hotel bedroom, exchanging rants, jokes (some of which are funny), but nothing insightful or dramatic. The performances are one dimensional, and the climactic twist is both predictable and trite. Given that we would shrink from such seedy fantasists in the street, it seems odd that we should pay West End prices to see them on the stage." The Sunday Express
"Stephen Merchant has chosen it to make his stage debut. A West End debut, no less. I doubt if Richard Bean's meandering 2002 two-hander would be in town without him... The problem with the piece is that nothing, except the stained, grubby Finsbury Park hotel room, rings remotely true. There are playful nods at Pinter... but Abbey Wright's flabby production fails to exploit the Pinteresque subtext which finally bubbles up in the darker, potentially disturbing second half... While Merchant's sad, mad Ted has height, he's short on presence, and neither he nor Steffan Rhodri land Beanís jokes with real comic aplomb. Unforgivably overstretched and boring." The Mail on Sunday
The Mentalists in London at the Wyndham's Theatre previewed from 3 July 2015, opened on 13 July 2015 and closed on 29 August 2015 - was originally scheduled to close on 26 September 2015