The Mentalists | Wyndham Theatre | Review

Generally I don’t watch a lot of TV, but I do like a good comedy. As a result I am familiar with the work of Stephen Merchant (The Office, Extras) and Steffan Rhodri (Gavin and Stacey), when I heard that they were to be teamed up in a two-handed black comedy written by Richard Bean (One Man two Guvnors, Great Britain) I was naturally very excited.

The Mentalists. Stephen Merchant and Steffan Rhodri. Photo credit J.Brooks and Helen Maybanks.jpg

The Mentalists | Review

Ted (Merchant) is disillusioned with life and is seeking a new start, armed with an inspirational book that his son has found he decides to begin a new life. To encourage people to join him in his new utopian community based on civility and good manners he contacts his old friend, part time hairdresser Morrie (Rhodri) to help him record a promotional film.

Directed by Abbey Wright (The Father, Ghosts) the entire play is set in a run down hotel room in Finsbury Park, London where much of the first act revolves around Ted ranting about his life, supposedly sounding like a grumpy curmudgeon akin to Victor Meldrew and Tony Hancock but unfortunately I found his complaining altogether tedious rather than amusing and I wasn’t surprised with his friend Morrie nodded off during the filming.

Thankfully the second half picks up speed and has some genuine laugh-out loud lines. As more of Ted’s egregious behaviour is revealed we also learn about his character and therefore he gains more understanding from the audience. Morrie’s character also develops as Ted’s loyal if not overly sympathetic friend.

Merchant and Rhodri work very well together and have a good rapport. Stephen Merchant was ambitious to make his stage debut with such a huge role (and I am not talking about his sheer height here) but he does an admirable job with building Ted’s character from slightly bonkers to seriously unstable.

Steffan Rhodri is great as the ‘camp yet straight’ hairdresser who makes naughty movies on the side. He delivers some great one liners and portrays Morrie as a genuinely likeable guy and a good friend to have.

For a comedy written in 2002 it did feel as though it was written much earlier and for me personally the laughs were outweighed by an uncomfortable feeling that laughing at mental health isn’t all that funny. However, I did enjoy ‘The Mentalists’ in parts as it did have lots of funny moments and some great on-liners.

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