Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell

"Bathurst wonderfully brings the character to life"

The Coach and Horses pub lies in the heart of Soho.  It is a classic old fashioned British pub with slightly dated wooden décor throughout and feels comfortable and cosy. 

Richard Bathurst embodies Jeffrey Bernard in this play from Keith Waterhouse.  Played as a one person monologue over an hour, we are regaled with stories from his evenings in the pub itself. 

Jeffrey finds himself locked in after the landlord has closed up for the evening, he’s an alcoholic columnist who has had their fair share of wild evenings in and around London mainly consisting of booze, women and gambling. 

This is a site-specific piece, with audience members taking up seats at the bar, around tables and on benches around the perimeter of the space. This means Richard Bathurst is able to get up close and personal with his audience, often strolling back and forth while telling his stories, it gives the feel of catching up with an old friend. 

Keith Waterhouse’s writing does feel a little dated at times, but accurate for the person the story centres on and it feels as though Jeffrey himself is in the room at times. There is a lot of comedy, the section around the cat racing is a particular highlight and wonderfully written. While mainly a comedy play there are some moments of real emotion and a raw pain which come across beautifully. 

Bathurst wonderfully brings the character to life, embodying the aging Jeffrey with a sense of grandeur. He fully has control of the room, the audience hanging on his words even when he is not visible at the other end of the bar. You laugh with him at his exploits and feel empathy for him as he describes his trickier times in life. 

This is a warm cosy play, it’s an enjoyable hour spent in wonderful company. If you’re already aware of Jeffrey Bernard then this gives you a wonderful insight to him and his life, and if you’re not aware of him then you get to learn a bit about the interesting life he led. 

This show was reviewed on the 30th October 2023.  Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell runs at the Coach & Horses, Soho until the 31st October 2023.  Full details and tickets can be found here: https://www.jeffreyplay.com/ 

Review written by Rosie Browne

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Photo credit: Tom Howard

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