An invitation to the new production of Richard Bean’s (One Man, Two Guvnors, Made In Dagenham) play, The Mentalists landed in my inbox from TheatreBloggers and I couldn’t accept it fast enough. A two hander, with Stephen Merchant and Steffan Rhodri, The Mentalists is a witty and at times dark comedy about the sometimes extreme ways we find a sense of order and hierarchy in our lives.
The static set is a perfectly detailed hotel room – with a grate above the door, grubby hand marks around the light switch and even a plugged-in trouser press. The intricate detail of this bog standard room is all part of its charm, as we, along with Ted and Morrie (Merchant and Rhodri) and trapped there for the duration of the show. The stage of The Wyndham’s theatre is brought close to the audience with this enclosed set, all adding to the claustrophobic nature of The Mentalists.
Ted (Merchant) enters with confidence as the play begins and we are quickly introduced, albeit vaguely, to his master plan, to which childhood care home companion Morrie (Rhodri) has been dragged along. Ted, armed with Morrie’s video camera, has a message of revolution to share with anyone who will listen (and pay £29.99) and has enlisted his best friend to help record the manifesto. Morrie soon becomes suspicious of Ted’s actions as the phone continues to ring and demands for unpaid bills come under the door, but what could Ted be up to? Ted’s personality quirks interrupt the dialogue often, as do Morrie’s, and it soon becomes clear this isn’t a play of traditional plot but more a play filled with character exposition and realisation. Morrie almost becomes our guide through Ted’s mind, as he understands the faults and strengths of his friend and exposes them to the waiting audience.
Filled with witty one line jokes, many of which have been brought up to date for director Abbey Wright‘s 2015 production, The Mentalists combines the fast paced dialogue of a Mamet play with the contextual humour of Have I Got News For You, perfectly aimed at a British audiences. There are moments of darker humour, which balance out the almost slapstick moments of outrage from Merchant who delivers Ted’s angst with a physicality only Merchant could commit to. Prepare yourself to be chuckling, smiling and at times full on roaring with laughter throughout The Mentalists and perhaps even disagreeing with those sat around you as to why things are funny!
Rhodri’s experience shows as Morrie, who despite his occasionally Del Boy style language is a sincere character, loyal to Merchant’s ever increasingly neurotic Ted. Their dynamic works on stage, and a real bond can be felt between the two characters which provides an excellent base for both the humour and genuinely touching moments within the second act of The Mentalists.
The play runs for a strictly limited season at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre until 26th September 2015. Tickets can be purchased from thementalistsplay.com.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary ticket to The Mentalists by theatrebloggers.co.uk. All views and opinions are my own.