Tag Archives: Robert Bathurst

“Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell” at the Coach and Horses

As sites for shows go this one is a scoop. Seeing Keith Waterhouse’s play about journalist Jeffrey Bernard in the pub he frequented adds immeasurably to this fine production, directed and adapted by James Hillier. Soho is almost a character in the play – after Bernard moved there, he said he “never looked forward” – and joining him for a lock-in at such a historic location is a thrill.

Of course, a pub isn’t the perfect performance space. Hillier and his company, Defibrillator, have experience that proves essential. Robert Bathurst takes the role and holds court– talk about art imitating life – basking in the attention and the atmosphere. The odd drunk outside could almost have been planned, it fits the night so well.

The feeling is intimate, which suits the piece’s elegiac tone. Afterall, the “unwell” of the title is an understatement, and these reminiscences focus on mortality. Bernard’s addictions to alcohol and gambling took their toll, and his self-awareness is admirable, but also sad. The production is careful not to glamourise. Bathurst’s performance, almost nervous at first, reflects his character’s disappointments and brave face.  

None of which is to say that the Bernard depicted here is a maudlin drunk or as unpleasant as his stories suggest. Despite all the vodka downed, his spirit is unreformed – this show is fun. The jokes are well-written, a trick is brilliantly executed, and Bathurst’s delivery is impeccable. The characters we hear about lead to wicked impersonations. But, above all, it’s the jokes that Bernard makes at his own expense that saves him in our eyes. He may have been a bad gambler, but it’s an easy tip to recommend this show. Odds on, you’ll love it.

Monday–Wednesday until 20 November 2023


Photo by Tom Howard

“Blithe Spirit” at the Apollo Theatre

With her strong reputation for revivals, Thea Sharrock is a safe pair of hands to direct Noël Coward’s wartime comedy Blithe Spirit. The production, fresh from Bath, fits into the West End perfectly with a slick all-star cast and general air of quality.

With the Terrance Rattigan revival currently in full swing, reminding us about craftsmanship in playwriting, Blithe Spirit serves to show Coward’s talent in constructing a play. This maybe frivolous stuff but it’s impeccably plotted, and Sharrock’s zippy pace is perfect for bringing out Coward’s bravura dialogue.

The scenario, a wife coming back to haunt her husband and his new relationship after a botched séance, is a comic device that’s brilliant in its simplicity. As an actor himself, Coward provides roles to die for (in this case, literally) and the cast of this production grabs the opportunity with both hands.

Robert Bathurst plays Charles Condomine. A typically vain Coward hero, he is appealing despite his ego and immature behind his sophistication. Bathurst plays the role superbly but issue has to be taken over the fit of his smoking jacket – no matter how tormented by the paranormal a Coward hero may be, he should never be dishabille.

Charles’ wives are superbly cast. Hermione Norris plays the glacial Ruth as the “staccato Sergeant Major” and her acidic delivery is perfect. Ruthie Henshall adds a mischievous grace appropriate to the role of Elvira and is a joy to watch.

Best of all, a much anticipated performance by Alison Steadman finally lays to rest the ghost of Margaret Rutherford in the role of Madam Arcati. Steadman’s Arcati deals with astral bigamy in hilarious down-to-earth fashion. Concerned about the effect of cucumber sandwiches on her trance, she has an eye to innuendo that a constant quest for “subdued moaning” probably induces. Not that she would find any at the Apollo Theatre during Blithe Sprit – just good old-fashioned laughter.

Booking until the 18 June 2011


Photo by Nobby Clark

Written 11 March 2011