Thursday, 2 June 2016

Review Twist Of Lemmon

Twist Of Lemmon
Chris Lemmon

Sentimental Journey

Who'd be the child of the first divorced wife of a beloved Hollywood screen legend? Well, Chris Lemmon, son of Jack of Some Like It Hot, The Apartment and Missing fame, is that child.  And this one-man show, named after an album recorded by his piano-playing Dad, is a gently paced memoir of his father's life.

f you have to ask, "Who?" - well, this is a show to please fans of a certain age and suckers for old Hollywood (TLT couldn't possibly comment as to whether she is one of them ;)). But your reviewer as a mere stripling theatregoer did manage to see Jack Lemmon in  two West-End plays, Veterans Day and Long Day's Journey Into Night

Although one of the points of the show may be that Christopher Lemmon would be happy to have those who don't know the work of Jack Lemmon to be in the audience. For him to be accepted as Chris Lemmon, a person in his own right, introducing newbies to a story about human beings and families caught up in, torn apart by, and sometimes reconciling within the Hollywood machine.

This is a very bookish narration (indeed its genesis was in a 2006 book) spliced with Chris, as his father, piano playing, singing standards with double-edged lyrics reflecting, albeit gently, on the Hollywood set up and taking on his father's stammer and nervous energy, as well as bringing to life his fellow celebrities from Marilyn Monroe to Walter Matthau. 

And there's no doubting, even without words, the look of  the almond eyes, the fleeting impish expression and talent for show business, is part of the Lemmon legacy, not only from his father Jack but also, we learn, his flamboyant poker-playing grandmother Gigi. 

Still, the  darker strands do emerge, like shards of original sin inflicted on the innocent, especially nearer the end of a gently-paced show running a tad over two hours. Yet the piece is deceptively carefully structured under a seemingly meandering river of music, narration, impersonation, photos and movie clips (video designer Simon Clarke).   

For Twist of Lemmon directed, by Hugh Wooldridge with design by Simon Wells, is a curious show for the terminally curious about Hollywood, so gently spiked you have to work a little to put together the darker strands. 

Nevertheless the consequences of a Tinsel Town star's life is its own version of JFK's Camelot  and, while there can only be one president after winning an election, as Chris brings across,  the competition between and playing off of movie stars is endless and all-consuming.  

Competition which even extends to father and son, although as with Hollywood story arcs, the son winning out, even at  Jack Lemmon's cherished golf club, is finally accepted and a source of pride for his father. 

Like Jack Lemmon, a talented musician whose piano player career was cut short by Hollywood stardom, his son Chris can more than tinkle the ivories. A photo of studious father and toddler son playing the same piano gives the sentiment, more than a thousand words, of sharing a musical nervous system, as well as a father-son bond. 

But there was also the separation, both physically   - after the divorce of mother Cynthia who started off in radio with Jack - and mentally,  as second generation Hollywood Chris is a classically trained musician, having had the opportunity to do degrees in music and acting. 

It's almost a performance by Chris Lemmon which lulls one into a false sense of security. Only when we examined afterwards the stark facts of the story which emerged, we realized those ripples in the water with the star at the centre were tidal waves inflicted on spouse and child. 

So we come - gently - to the end of our review. We found it interesting if a little lengthy. The chief attraction is the one degree of separation from an old-time movie superstar, while also making one reflect on unnatural pressures which would tear asunder any family.  

But at the same time it's maybe as much an end of the pier show (and Jack Lemmon was much influenced by French cinema and mime), with political, global and digital interests shiftng, breaking the old sureties,  marking the end of yet another era in Hollywood. 

Beneath the laughter and tears, there is some acid in this niche Lemmon show which gets an amber//green light from TLT and her horsepowered caddy.

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