Monday 5 February 2024

Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell - Review

Coach and Horses, London


Written by Keith Waterhouse
Directed and adapted by James Hillier

Robert Bathurst

Keith Waterhouse’s brilliant biopic of Jeffrey Bernard one of Fleet Street’s most distinctive characters plays for a very limited 4-week season at The Coach and Horses pub in London’s Soho.

This production is remarkable for two reasons: the Coach and Horses was Bernard’s favoured drinking haunt and in this production the action actually takes place in the bar (with drink sales suspended during the performance so make sure drinks are purchased before the lights dim); and in Robert Bathurst’s one-man take on the alcoholic wordsmith there is to be found one of the finest performances in the capital. 

In what is effectively an hour-long monologue- interjected with very brief snatches of pre-recorded voices, Bathurst nails Bernard’s scorching wit. Waterhouse’s wry gags flow from start to finish with the play being a masterclass in both writing and performance. 

A bravura performance Bathurst not only holds us rapt in Bernard’s anecdotes but also pulls off a masterful pub game with a raw egg and stages a cat race (with toy cats of course) on the pub’s floor! As Bernard’s observations on alcohol, gambling and journalism are seasoned with wry perspicacity, so director James Hillier has fashioned an unconventional drama, exquisitely performed.

Runs until 26th February

Photo credit: Tom Howard

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