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"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have
lighted fools
The way to dusty death. "
(Macbeth: Act V Scene V)

'Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell' by Keith Waterhouse

JULY 2005

Directed by: Richard Parish
Design by: Michael Clements
Lighting and Sound by: Alex Lyon
Cast: David Webb as Jeffrey Bernard with Malcolm Coleman, Katrina Hester, Karen Sahlsberg and Derek Watts

For a direct link to the GALLERY of PHOTOGRAPHS of this production CLICK: Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell

Journalist Jeffrey Bernard was an inveterate gambler, a renowned womaniser and a hopeless drunkard, so why did Keith Waterhouse choose him as hero of his highly successful play? The reason was that the man also had a fine sense of humour, and two hours in his company could be hilarious fun. And so it proved in the Lighted Fools Theatre Company production, directed by Richard Parish at Cranleigh Arts Centre. Helped by a wonderful set designed by Michael Clements, that fine actor David Webb gave a scintillating performance as the rogue journalist. We find him first waking up at five in the morning, having been locked into his favourite pub (The Coach and Horses in Soho) overnight, and he spends the next two hours trying to raise the landlord on the telephone to let him out, telling us his life story and ironing his shirt. In this time he manages to down a bottle of vodka, his hands trembling a little and his voice faltering by the end. The four other members of the cast flit in and out as characters from his past, including his four wives, with innumerable costume and accent changes. My favourite was Karen Sahlsberg’s barmaid, all teeth and bosoms, but that was just one of her many roles, and with Katrina Hester, Malcolm Coleman and Derek Watts, they all had a great time showing their versatility. Although the play was almost a two hour monologue for David Webb the pace never flagged for a moment, and it roared on with gathering speed up to the end, carrying the Cranleigh audience with it on a tide of laughter. If you missed it, try to catch it at the Riverhouse, Walton-on-Thames on 8th & 9th July.

You could be excused for thinking that being locked for hours in a Soho pub with a fervent alcoholic and gambler may not be an ideal theatrical experience. But that is the setting of the Keith Waterhouse play ‘Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell’ based on the ramblings and alcoholic misadventures of the eponymous Spectator journalist. A programme note for the Lighted Fools production stated that the aim of the company is to present challenging theatre ~ and here the main challenge would appear to be to make this ‘lock-in’ with this reprobate an enjoyable experience. He had little regard for personal relationships – as instanced his four passing wives; so how do you make this self-centred, self-indulgent, hedonistic sot an endearing companion? In the ever-capable hands of David Webb he nearly pulls it off. Never leaving the stage, it is a hugely demanding role and many of these demands were answered as he recalled characters and experiences through an alcoholic haze. What was missed in Dick Parish’s production was the inner fear and vulnerability behind that mask of bonhomie. Not until very late in the play, when the shadow of the grim reaper began to loom upon him, was there a sense of emotional depth, the inner loneliness, and a glimpse of the reason for his constant escape into a dissolute life. But on a superficial level - and it could be argued his Jeffery’s whole life was superficial! – David Webb gave a very assured performance. Like the central character, the play tends to ramble and lack shape. Maybe this even-paced production could have been helped with stronger shifts in tone and tempo. It was left to the other four actors - who played more than a score of memory characters in Jeffery’s numerous anecdotes – to bring vitality and energy to the productions. Here there were some swift well-observed cameos from Malcolm Coleman, Katrina Hester, Karen Sahlsberg and Derek Watts.- all aided by very well-chosen character-revealing costumes. The production was further lifted by Mike Clements’ clever, witty and atmospheric setting where the doors and fittings in this claustrophobic bar were all tipsily askew as might be seen through the bottom of the vodka glass of it most regular customer! (Incidentally I notice that this Soho watering-hole is now up for sale; presumably sales plummeted after the demise of JB!)

I hope the play is received as well this week as it was last. I did enjoy it immensely

Thank you for inviting me to see the great production of 'Jeffrey Bernard'. David Webb excelled even himself in a performance I shall remember for a long time

Just to let you know that we had a ball on Saturday - how that guy remembered all those lines I find remarkable. Please let us know about future productions.

We really enjoyed the play

The second act of the play was entered for the Woking Festival in October 2005. The production was one of the three plays recalled by the adjudicator to be presented again on the last night of the Festival.
The production won the Edna Nash Cup for third placed play and was nominated for the technical excellence award. David Webb won the Best Actor Award and all four of the supporting cast, Malcolm Coleman, Katrina Hester, Karen Sahlsberg and Derek Watts were nominated for the Best Supporting Actor and Actress Awards. Richard Parish was nominated for the Best Director Award

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