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Phil Willmott

Review: THE MENTOR at the Vaudeville Theatre

The Mentor The Mentor, a 90 minute piece of theatre that's so slight it's scarcely more than a conversation piece, centres around a confrontation between two playwrights.

The first is an establishment figure celebrated for a play he wrote decades ago that's widely studied but seldom produced and the second is a newcomer recently heralded as the voice of his generation after a brief run of his expressionist play in a studio theatre.

A literary foundation has paid for the former to mentor the latter over a week at a writer's retreat as the younger man shapes his new piece. He brings his lap top and the beautiful wife whose high powered job pays for him to work in the arts.

Of course the older man is cantankerous, caustic, witty and cynical. Of course the young man is impetuous and arrogant. Of course it transpires that they're both as vain and insecure as the other. Of course there's psychological games, the wife becomes a pawn in their power struggle and of course they reach a grudging mutual redirect.

The evening has been packaged as a chic, intelligent evening of cool European culture so there's also plenty of gnomic faux philosophy and flashes of the strange menace you get in a Harold Pinter play.

There are four reasons to see it.

The first is that F. Murray Abraham the oscar winning star of Hollywood's Amadeus and TV's Homeland plays the older man and it's a privilege to see a great actor at his nuanced best even if the play doesn't really require much of him.

The other actors are strangely wooden, often directed to stare into the middle distance as if at the view and to behave very much as if they're figures in a play rather then flesh and blood human beings.

The second reason for seeing it is to find out more about the German playwright Daniel Kehlerman who's novels apparently out sell J.K Rowling's in his native country. I'm afraid, having seen his play, I've no idea why.

The third reason to book is if you're interested in the internal torment of playwrights. I'm a playwright and even I'm not. Plus the idea of a masterpiece that's studied yet not performed for a guaranteed student audience is absurd, as is the idea that a short run of a single new play in a tiny venue could lead to you to being proclaimed a genius by the establishment.

The fourth possible reason for buying tickets to The Mentor, which I can't quarrel with, is that it's short enough to satisfy your appetite to do something cultural whilst also leaving plenty of time for dinner afterwards.

A slight play of slight appeal that's only slightly worth seeing.

The Mentor tickets