The Man With The Golden Pen is a show about the creator of the most famous fictional spy, James Bond. In it, Fleming is confronted by an (off-stage) apparition of Bond at two moments of high stress: the afternoon of his wedding, and then with his marriage all but fallen apart. It’s an intriguing premise and one which works well.
With Bond ‘present’, Fleming talks through the reasons behind his creation, as well as revealing his own life and love story. Michael Chance plays Fleming in this one-man show written by Mark Burgess and set in his Jamaican hideaway, Goldeneye. In the first act – set in 1952 - he is writing Casino Royale, his first Bond novel, and in the second act - 10 years later – he has written 10 novels and sold 40 million books. The Man With The Golden Pen is a whistle-stop tour of Fleming’s life and best-known creation (though there is a reminder that he also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!).
Chance has a good mix of charm, arrogance and worldliness as Fleming, though there are quite a few unfortunate stumbles over the script throughout. The script is stuffed full of snippets of Bond and Fleming information, interesting details behind the novels and, later, about casting the films. Audience members don’t need to be Bond aficionados to enjoy the entertaining and funny show. In fact they were, they probably wouldn’t uncover any new information.
There are some well-chosen audio clips of Casino Royale and Dr No (which is filming during the period of act two) to break up the monologue, and the show even ends with a short clip of Sir Roger Moore.
Most intriguing is the information about Fleming’s own life and the parallels with Bond. But this is an enjoyable way to spend 70 minutes, and perhaps extending it would ensure it feels a little less like a barrage of Bond and Fleming facts.
- Laura Maley