THERE are few actors quite so synonymous with a particular kind of upper-class English identity as the late David Tomlinson.

Best known for his iconic role as Mr Banks in the Disney classic Mary Poppins, he made his mark elsewhere too with characters that were sometimes kind, sometimes conceited, but always reserved and thoroughly English – in a strawberries and cream on the lawn sort of way.

The Life I Lead, starring the compelling Miles Jupp as Mr Tomlinson, is a quasi-comedy which is best described as an adaptation of the man's life. It is told in varying styles, via song, fourth wall-breaking jokes and banter, and long dramatic scenes.

Throughout, Miles Jupp impresses with both his range and delivery, revealing a great deal of depth both to himself and his character.

This is, of course, crucial to the plot as it stands. Tomlinson, and indeed the characters he played, had an overriding tendency to mask pain with humour. This is reflected in the structure of each scene: whenever we learn something heart-breaking, mere moments later we are then whisked into a Disney song, or a joke, demonstrating a difficulty in dealing with difficult truths.

Indeed, as charming as Mr Tomlinson is (and was), his life was one of profound pain and difficulty, that he survived as long as he did in good spirits is a testament to his generation, forged from war and loss.

This isn’t to say that this is a disjointed work, or that it lacks depth. In fact quite the opposite is true on both counts. Jupp is a born raconteur, and the life of Tomlinson is a fascinating one to tell.

An evening with mirth and pathos in buckets, and one which you will never likely experience again.

The Life I Lead runs at the Theatre Royal Bath until August 31.

Sean Cameron