The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
June 28, 29, 30 – July 1, 2006.
Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
by Keith Waterhouse
Bob Ryder – Jeffrey Bernard
Lyn Fernee – Journalists, Poets, Wives, Girlfriends, Thespians, Bores, Publicans, Sinners, Policemen, Waiters, Friends, Neighbours, Jockeys, Trainers, Punters, Tarts, Taxmen, Magistrates, Doctors, Nurses, Artists, Drunks, etc. etc.
David Bickers – Journalists, Poets, Wives, Girlfriends, Thespians, Bores, Publicans, Sinners, Policemen, Waiters, Friends, Neighbours, Jockeys, Trainers, Punters, Tarts, Taxmen, Magistrates, Doctors, Nurses, Artists, Drunks, etc. etc.
Kate Brownings – Journalists, Poets, Wives, Girlfriends, Thespians, Bores, Publicans, Sinners, Policemen, Waiters, Friends, Neighbours, Jockeys, Trainers, Punters, Tarts, Taxmen, Magistrates, Doctors, Nurses, Artists, Drunks, etc. etc.
David Peaty – Journalists, Poets, Wives, Girlfriends, Thespians, Bores, Publicans, Sinners, Policemen, Waiters, Friends, Neighbours, Jockeys, Trainers, Punters, Tarts, Taxmen, Magistrates, Doctors, Nurses, Artists, Drunks, etc. etc.
Stage Manager – David Comber
Technical Stage Manager – John Garland
ASM – Olive Smith
Lighting – Mike Medway
Properties – Margaret Davy
Properties – Sue Whittaker
Wardrobe – Maggi Pierce
Wardrobe – Cherry Briggs
Workshop Team – Dave Collis
Workshop Team – David Comber
Workshop Team – Sylvie Walder
Workshop Team – Nicki Moston
Workshop Team – Sheila Neesham
Workshop Team – Mark Flower
Workshop Team – Tony Holmes
Workshop Team – Tracey Holmes
Workshop Team – Philip Oliver
Workshop Team – Robert Mitchell
Publicity & Design – Rosemary Bouchy
Publicity & Design – Rosemary Brown
Publicity & Design – Anna Barden
Publicity & Design – Judith Berrill
Front of House – Betty Dawes
Box Office – Mark Flower
Programme Note #1: Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
“Jeffrey Bernard was a legendary figure in Soho through the 1950s till his death in 1997. He somehow succeeded in immortalising his own chaotic lifestyle in a long-running weekly column, Low Life, originally in the New Statesman from 1973, before moving on to The Spectator in 1975. It chronicled his daily round of boozing, gambling and general dissipation, much of it evidenced at his infamous Soho local, the Coach and Horses. Jeff was often too far gone to produce the weekly column, on which occasions the magazine would print the classic notice ‘Jeffrey Bernard is unwell’. But his column did appear over a remarkable stretch of years, leading one witty commentator to call it “the longest suicide note in history”.
Keith Waterhouse knew Jeff well and had the brilliant idea of weaving a play from the material in The Spectator columns. He also conjured up a nostalgic picture of the boozy, bohemian Soho that’s now gone, featuring some of the highly colourful characters who Bernard rubbed shoulders with [‘usually in the gutter’ as he once put it]. Since it first appeared in 1989, the play has proved remarkably popular. Peter O’Toole, who also knew Bernard well, was in the first production and reprised the rôle to enormous acclaim in 1999, soon after Jeff’s long-inevitable demise.
Long before then, the fiction had taken over from the fact. One night when he was sitting sozzled in the stalls bar of the Apollo Theatre during a performance of the play, Jeff was confronted by the House Manager, who tried to eject him. “But I’m Jeffrey Bernard”, he pleaded. “You can’t be”, came the reply, “he’s up there on stage”!
Publicity #1: Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
Publication: The Courier
Publication Data: June 2006 issue – page 6
Text Header: ‘Sick’ man of the Coach and Horses keeps the booze and laughs flowing
FIVE o’clock in the morning and the bar at the Coach and Horses is dark and empty. Or is it?
Locked into his favourite Soho pub, Jeffrey Bernard wakes up after a heavy night on the booze and so begins Wick Theatre Company’s next comedy offering – Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell. Based by author Keith Waterhouse on Jeff’s contributions to the “Low Life” column of the Spectator magazine, this is a gloriously funny and sometimes poignant piece of theatre. On the frequent occasions when Jeff was incapable of producing his column, the editor would print the apology – “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell”.
When Jeff crawls out from under a bar table and finds himself alone and locked in, he settles down to drink, smoke and reminisce. And we hear the story of his life, his loves, his friends and his vices. To help him tell the tale, all kinds of colourful characters appear as if by magic.
It seems that Jeff has been turned out of his digs, and his belongings have been stored behind the bar. He brings them out and proceeds to unpack bit by bit, laying out photographs on the tables and finally making the place look as if he has set up home. He even manages to find an ironing board to press his clean shirt.
A highly experienced cast is headed by Bob Ryder, pictured left, as Jeffrey Bernard. Katie Brownings, Lyn Fernee, David Peaty and David Bickers are kept busy playing poets, journalists, wives and girlfriends, politicians, trainers and jockeys, bores, artists, doctors and nurses, tax-men, drunks, tarts – all the characters who flit in and out as Jeff recounts his memories. Pat Lyne directs.
Performances at the Barn Theatre, Southwick Street, Southwick, run from Wednesday, June 28, to Saturday, July 1, starting at 7.45pm. Tickets cost £7 each, from the box office on 01273 597094.
Review #1: Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Sam Woodman
Text Header: Unknown
Author Keith Waterhouse’s play is currently enjoying revival at London’s Garrick Theatre and, last week, the Coach and Horses was recreated at the Barn Theatre, Southwick.
After crawling out from under a bar table, Jeff finds himself alone and settles down to drink and smoke his way through the night, casting his memory back over his life. Jeff is visited by countless friends, colleagues, wives, nurses, tipsters, judges and jockeys, who help tell his tale. Bob Ryder shone in the title rôle, ably supported by Lyn Fernee, David Bickers, Kate Brownings and David Peaty, who played the numerous figures from Jeff’s life. The show was performed in the round, rather than on stage, involving the audience more and bringing them closer to the action, as if they were sat at the table with Jeff himself.
Thought provoking, interesting, entertaining, funny, sad, wry, poignant … directed by Patricia Lyne, the show was all of the above and nobody left the theatre disappointed. Wick’s Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell was an accomplished production. Everyone involved can feel rightly proud.
Review #2: Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Barrie Jerram
Text Header: Unknown
Jeffrey may be unwell but his spirit is well and truly alive and kicking in Keith Waterhouse’s vibrant telling of the life of Bernard, a journalist by trade and a barfly-bohemian by life style. A larger than life character, he found his spiritual home – the spirit being vodka – in the pubs of his beloved Soho, until dying of renal failure in 1997. One particular pub, The Coach and Horses, is the setting for this wonderfully funny play where, waking from a drunken stupor at five in the morning he discovers that he is locked in. Between attempts to contact the pub’s landlord to release him he regales the audience with incidents from his colourful life.
The play is virtually a monologue, fleshed out with an assortment of characters that appear ghost-like on stage to enact the incidents he is recalling. Amongst the many hilarious incidents related, one that tickled the audience most described cat racing, a past time invented by desperate gamblers when horse racing was abandoned during a long winter spell. The central character is a wonderful rôle for an actor but it is also a tough challenge. Happily in this production by the Wick Theatre Company they were blessed by the talent and skill of Bob Ryder, whose portrayal of Bernard was masterful. Not only did he extract the full humour from this comic-tragic figure – the tragedy being self-inflicted – but he also brought out the man’s vulnerability, notably when reflecting on the deaths of so many friends and companions.
Ryder was given wonderful support from the quartet of actors that play the assorted wives, mistresses, drunks and tarts etc. that Bernard’s imagination has peopled the stage with. It would be an injustice not to give credit to their individual contributions. From a wide range of characters played by Kate Brownings, the foul-mouthed owner of the drinking club, a blousy sexpot and a wheezing old lady stand out in the memory. Her performance was sheer comic delight. Lyn Ferne’s talent brought variety to her assortment of rôles, many of them as Bernard’s wives and lovers – invariably ending up with the words “Jeffrey, you make me sick”. David Bickers skilfully provided many comic cameos including the jockey, Lester Piggott. Completing the quartet and no less accomplished than the others was David Peaty. Amongst his fine contributions I was particularly amused by his impersonation of the actor, Dennis Shaw. Together with this ‘dream team’ of actors and director must be included those responsible for an outstanding set.
It was hard to fault this slick production with its superb direction by Patricia Lyne, but if pushed the only quibble would be that Ryder looked too healthy for the dissolute old rake!
Review #3: Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
Publication: Words & Music
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Gordon Bull
Jeffrey Barnard was a bibulous journalist whose greatest claim to fame was having his shabby life immortalised by playwright Kenneth Waterhouse, otherwise he would undoubtedly, like the rest of us, have passed obliquely into history. If Look Back in Anger is your cup of tea, you would have found this ‘play’ worthy of a quick dip of a teabag.
Bernard, faultlessly verbalised throughout [almost a monologue] by Bob Ryder, wakes up sloshed at 5am in a pub, having accidentally been locked all night in the lavatory. His ability to crawl from the floor to the bar brings him to soliloquize in his wretched life, so utterly boring, mundane and universal. At no time did I feel the uncertainty consistent with one ‘under the influence of alcohol’, a difficult act to maintain as he pursued his catalogue of events, with the odd character effectively popping up to prop up the pretence. Ryder is consummate actor, and certainly he managed to consume a fair degree of liquid to keep his vocal chords well-oiled between a farrago of fags.
An occasional titter here and there from the audience paid heed to the humour. The big laughs, with one exception, depended as is common these days, on the particular vehemence or otherwise, with which each Anglo-Saxon vulgarity is expressed whether it be f***, sh** or p**s [I’m not allowed to spell them out]. This is how it was and this is how it ended. Literally! Must I spell it out?
And, oh! Yes! The best moment and the biggest all-round laugh was attributed to the banal couple at the bar, suitably dressed, whose complete act comprised trite and clichéd remarks. It stole the show! Funny, that!
Comment #1: Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell
Publication: Wick News – November 2006
“Back in August, Wick made quite a splash by having our production of Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell featured in the national theatre magazine Amateur Stage. As well as a three-page feature describing Patricia Lyne’s production for Wick – which included eight of Lucien Bouchy’s production photographs – we also bagged the front page, as you can see!
Well done to Rosemary Bouchy for getting us this national exposure. In fact the team at Amateur Stage were so pleased with the images from Wick, that they used some of the material again to illustrate their 50th anniversary publication in September.
Earlier Wick productions which have been featured in detailed illustrated articles in Amateur Stage have been Arcadia, Dandy Dick and Ciphers. Collector’s items all – but we have copies in the Wick Archive should you want to look them up!”