This dark comedy by Richard Bean (best known for hits One Man, Two Guvnors and Great Britain), is about a touching friendship between Ted (Stephen Merchant) and Morrie (Steffan Rhodri) and the lengths we would go to protect our friends.
Set in a bed and breakfast hotel room, which is relatively plain but a perfect setting for what takes place throughout the production, the audience feels as though they are also intimately involved with what is happening.
Morrie and Ted arrive at the hotel with a brilliant plan that could transform the world, so the pair decide to record this momentous occasion that will hopefully change their lives.
The two characters are completely different in personality that at first it is difficult to believe that they could be friends. Ted is a character who enjoys having a rant about anything and everything, but becomes increasingly paranoid as the situation he finds himself becomes more intense. Meanwhile Morrie is certainly a more laid back character in comparison but is touchingly loyal to Ted as he realises what is happening.
The chemistry between Merchant and Rhodri is a key part of making the play and production work and in this it succeeds well. Both actors make Ted and Morrie believable and although it takes some time to get used to them the audience begins to feel genuine affection for the pair. Merchant’s awkward Ted and Rhodri’s relaxed Morrie definitely charm and hold the audience’s attention throughout.
However, the main weakness in the production is the play itself. Although it is pacey and energetic, it doesn’t feel as though there is a lot happening – essentially more talking than action. But, it has to be said that things do pick up in the second act as the number of phone calls and letters increases with an unexpected twist as well, making the production slightly more gripping and capturing the audience’s attention.
But despite this, everything feels very natural and there is plenty of clever if occasionally dark humour that will keep the audience entertained. Yet it is difficult to shake off the feeling that the production is lacking in some way.
Overall, The Mentalists is worth going to see for the two performances alone – even if (in my opinion) the play lets them down slightly. An interesting watch.
Listen to Stephen Merchant, Richard Bean and Steffan Rhodri talking about the play here: