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Comics were out in force and applauding warmly at last night’s opening of The Mentalists, in which fellow stand-up and The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant made his West End acting debut – but what did critics think?

Most overnight reviews fall in the three-star range, underwhelmed more by the choice of play than the performances of Merchant and his stage veteran co-star, Steffan RhodriRichard Bean‘s “slight” two-hander originally premiered in a temporary studio at the National Theatre in 2002, and many critics wonder why it was chosen for such a high-profile West End star vehicle, particularly one, carps the Telegraph, being sold at grossly inflated ticket prices.

But the new timeliness of Bean’s biting wit (“the Greeks peaked early”), interviews with Merchant and news related to The Office and his association with Ricky Gervais, as well as a new arm-candy girlfriend and a white-mesh dress worn by Kate Beckinsale help to generate more press interest in The Mentalists.

The Mentalists continues at the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre until 26 September 2015.


 

What the papers (and others) say

REVIEWS

INDEPENDENT – ★★★★

Paul Taylor: Stephen Merchant and Steffan Rhodri are a fine double act in this on-the-run drama… Their chemistry convinces you that this is a double act that goes a long way into a childhood…

TELEGRAPH – ★★★

Dominic Cavendish: I hate to carp about West End ticket prices but £96.75 to see Stephen Merchant making his theatrical debut in a revival of a 2002 two-hander? Are they out of their minds?!

GUARDIAN – ★★★

Michael Billington: I can’t help feeling that a modest piece has been inflated to make a pricey West End star vehicle. It all makes for a strange evening… with a needless interval…

MY THEATRE MATES – ★★★

Luke Jones via Theatre Cat: The jokes bought this play some time…It is not the storming two-hander you might expect, but this play grows into something funny, shocking and unsettlingly tragic…

THE STAGE – ★★

Mark Shenton: Abbey Wright’s new staging keeps the play bright and modern, but with diminishing returns as it deals with mounting hysteria. An odd revival…

TIME OUT – ★★★

Andrzej Lukowski: The subtleties and singularities of Ted feel obscured till the very end, when Merchant taps into a childlike charm that makes some sense of the character. But it feels a bit late…

DAILY MAIL

Quentin Letts: There is a moment in the first half when Morrie falls asleep while listening to his friend. I nearly joined him in snoozy oblivion. For all its quirkiness, the evening drags…

CHORTLE

Steve Bennett: The jokes are strong, and played nicely by both Merchant and co-star Steffan Rhodri; so even if this brisk play feels more like a snack than a banquet, it is at least a tasty one…

ARTS DESK

Veronica Lee: While Stephen Merchant is a plausible and engaging misfit, his transformation into borderline psychotic takes some believing in Abbey Wright’s straightforward production…

INTERVIEWS

Merchant: ‘I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this’

It’s really stuck in his craw. “This idea that we have to police ourselves, that we might say the wrong thing and upset someone or something. It’s not fun. It’s just not fun. “I don’t…

Merchant: ‘My bed is like a small Caribbean island’

I got into Breaking Bad around the time it began, but I fell off the path and I’ve only just finished it (it’s like speaking about finding God – I lost my way but found my way back to the…

Why Merchant thinks The Office couldn’t have been made today

Merchant, who co-wrote the hit sitcom with Ricky Gervais, has said militant liberals are taking the fun out of comedy and funnymen – including himself – are now censoring their jokes. The…

Stephen Merchant webchat – As it happened

The star of The Office and new play The Mentalists joined us to answer your questions – catch up with his answers here, from pets to music to the moment that changed his life, via…

Merchant on The Mentalists, Britishness and stripping off

Lanky comic Stephen Merchant shot to fame after co-writing smash sitcom ‘The Office’ with Ricky Gervais. Since then he’s won three Baftas and an Emmy, and hit the big time as a stand-up….

NEWS

Rehearsal Photos: The Mentalists

Stephen Merchant is firmly stepping out of the shadow of Ricky Gervais. Well, let’s be honest, he’s never been in his Extras co-star’s shadow as such. His rather more lofty frame wouldn’t fit…

Kate Beckinsale stuns in white mesh dress at The Mentalists opening

Kate Beckinsale brought a touch of Hollywood to London’s West End on Monday night at the opening night of a new play. The Underworld actress, 41, looked stunning in a tight white mesh.

Stephen Merchant will NOT be involved in Ricky Gervais’ movie

The Office co-creator – who jointly devised the hugely successful BBC sitcom with its star Ricky Gervais – will not be involved with David Brent’s big screen adventure, Life on the Road.

Who is Merchant’s stunning new girlfriend?

We’ve always known that girls like a man with a sense of humour and this cliche now begins and ends with Stephen Merchant and his impossibly stunning girlfriend, actress Christine Marzano.


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About the Author:

Since 1996, I have been passionate about promoting UK theatre, not least through WhatsOnStage.com and the WhatsOnStage Awards, which I founded, and my latest theatre websites, StageFaves.com, a pioneering social media directory for musicals, and MyTheatreMates.com, a portal for theatre bloggers I co-founded with Mark Shenton. In addition, I have hosted hundreds of post-show Q&As, panel debates and other talks with all types of theatremakers. I have also written for various publications including The Times, Evening Standard, Express and Daily Telegraph, and have commented on theatre in a wide variety of print, digital, and broadcast media. Apart from my love of theatre, I am the author of two published novels, Come Clean and Beware the Dwarfs. Follow me on Twitter @TerriPaddock.