The Mentor at Vaudeville Theatre
The Mentor is originally a German play by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Christopher Hampton. It tells of young writer, Martin Wegner who is paired with the famed writer, Benjamin Rubin, through a mentoring scheme. Martin is thought to be the voice of his generation where as Benjamin’s great success was many years ago. As a result of this we hear much discussion between them, Martin’s wife Gina and aspiring artist and arts fund administrator Erwin about what it means to be a writer. There is constant discussion as to the subjective nature of what being a writer, let alone a successful one means. Behind this we explore the writer’s ego and their the fragile nature of it.
The show is billed as a comedy however I only laughed a couple of times and struggled to see where else the comedy was supposed to come from. Not only that but the plot itself failed to excite me. The dialogue often felt it was trying to be clever for the sake of it and to sound impressive rather than raising genuine interesting points. At some points the development of the show was predictable and The Mentor therefore became bordering on dull, which is no mean feat in an 80 minute show.
The performances from the cast was strong all round, considering the text did little to strech them. F Murray Abraham is of course the star pull of The Mentor. He had a nice gravitas to the role of Benjamin Rubin with an additional twinkle in his eye which said he was there to create havoc. Rubin is the only character that has any intrigue to him and throughout the play the audience isn’t given much of a chance to develop any sort of feelings about any of them.
Daniel Weyman and Naomi Frederick are Martin and Gina Wegner and the situation they find themselves in brings to focus the tension points in their relationship. Weyman comes across with a good balance of cocky and insecure, flitting between the two easily.
The set design by Polly Sullivan was beautiful. The whole show revolved around the garden at the Villa where the mentoring was taking place. The focus of this was a beautiful cherry blossom tree which shed its blossoms during scene changes.
The Mentor fails to impress and inspire. Whilst it appears to aspire to spark debate it attempts to be too clever and misses the mark for the majority of the audience.