Review: 4* Twist of Lemmon, @St_JamesTheatre @TwistofLemmonUK

Tweetingit – 4**** Story of a Hollywood legend told by the next best thing to Jack Lemmon, his son Chris. No finer tribute to a unique talent = pure class 

Jack Lemmon once said death ends a life, not a relationship; a powerful observation of how the people we love can still affect us long after they’ve gone. TWIST OF LEMMON 5 Chris Lemmon  Photo Kim Sheard.jpgThe notion that memories sustain a relationship after death is explored in this brilliant autobiographical piece by Chris Lemmon. Aided by stills and movie clips, Chris adopts his father’s persona to tell the story of a remarkable life.  

As you might expect, Chris has the voice, looks and mannerisms of his father to such a degree he doesn’t have to try that hard.  Stills feature father and son through the years and it seems that Chris has gradually turned into Jack.  Undaunted by his father’s reputation, Chris made a successful career in film and TV, although perhaps not with the same critical acclaim. Nevertheless, he seems content to be Jack Lemmon’s son and demands respect for choosing a career that inevitably invites comparison.

Chris gently builds the story with some delightful asides that tell us something about Jack’s character and not just the characters he played.  We learn about his mother, Mildred, on whom Jack modelled his character Daphne in Some Like it Hot; and father John, a pioneer of doughnut manufacturing (genius obviously runs in the family).  Jack’s first foray into show business is well documented as he cuts his teeth playing piano in venues off Broadway. Just to prove the talent was passed on, Chris also played piano which gave the presentation greater depth and variety. Ever the film buff, I was itching for Chris to reach Jack’s break into films.  I didn’t have to wait long as Jack’s most notable roles were featured in sketch form brilliantly executed by Chris, assuming male and female parts in the process.  He became George Cukor, director of It Should Happen to You and Marilyn Monroe in Some like It Hot. Mr Roberts, for which Jack an Oscar and The Apartment, co-starring Shirley MacLaine were both fine examples of Jack’s skill as a film actor. Days of Wine and Roses represented one his darker roles as an alcoholic, while the brilliant, terrifying indictment of Pinochet’s regime in Missing closed Act I.

TWIST OF LEMMON 2 Chris Lemmon  Photo Kim Sheard

Act II began with a surprisingly long monologue about golf; not my favourite subject or sport it has to be said, but it just didn’t sit well with the piece overall.  Briefly, the golf segment tells of their attempts to ‘make the cut’ on a golf course called Pebble Beach.  Lemmon senior and junior both enjoyed golf and revelled in their chances of competing on the third day, but only if their scores were high enough? Whilst anecdotes about playing golf with Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery and Alice Cooper were good fun, it just seemed to disturb the balance of the piece.  Golf was something they did together and it obviously meant a lot to Chris but was glad when he got back to the movie analysis. The Odd Couple was next up and Jack’s memorable collaboration with Walter Matthau, perhaps the role that many will remember most strongly. Save the Tiger followed close behind and snaffled another Oscar. Jack’s later roles were also examined including Glengarry Glen Ross and Grumpy Old Men, the latter reuniting Lemmon and Matthau once more.

As a study of Jack’s life it hits all the right marks.  Chris presents a loving, respectful portrait of his father and achievements, but is not overly sentimental in an honest account. He alludes to Jack’s alcoholism, neglect of his mother Cynthia Stone and the often distant relationship between father and son. Chris also makes no bones about his feelings towards step mother, Felicia Farr; but is grateful that she remained her father’s companion until his death.  Jack Lemmon died in 2001, aged 76.  He made over 60 films, was Oscar nominated eight times and became the first player to win the award for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. They say form is temporary but class is permanent. Jack Lemmon was, is and always will be class; and  son’s no slouch either.

 Reviewer : Brian Penn

Author: Chris Lemmon

Director: Hugh Wooldridge

Producer: Katy Lipson for Aria Entertainment

Booking Link:

Box Office: 0844 264 2140

Booking until: 18 Juneegiewer

Published by Playhouse Pickings

Theatre blog run by Rhiannon; a civil servant, D&D player, sci fi fan, immersive theatre lover and gin enthusiast

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