Stuart King

Review: JEFFREY BERNARD IS UNWELL at The Coach and Horses, Greek Street

Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell More than 30 years have elapsed since this reviewer last witnessed a production of JEFFREY BERNARD IS UNWELL. On that occasion, Peter O’Toole played the eponymous Soho hack with a propensity for drunkenness and scandalous behaviour. So, how has this bizarrely incongruous beast, weathered the intervening decades? Read on…

Tucked into the downstairs public bar of The Coach and Horses on Greek Street, Soho, Robert Bathurst inhabits the scratchy journalist created by Keith Waterhouse. The ageing columnist who has successfully dispensed with the services of four wives, (yet unsurprisingly hasn’t managed to contain his affection for both gambling and alcohol), remains steadfast in his ability to recount amusing drink-fuelled anecdotes — albeit with an unsavoury propensity for omitting oft-forgotten finer details due to inebriation. As he rattles through his love affair with vodka, Soho and horse racing, and his loathing for anything tedious and banal, Bernard leaves little to the imagination. His soliloquy in wastefulness, whilst lamentable, is riddled with amusing observations on the human condition causing the audience who are ranged in close proximity about him, perched on bar stools, to guffaw and chuckle for a solid hour as they nurse their own drinks and packets of pork scratchings.

There is always room for theatrical presentations like this in London’s fabulous West End, and I have to admit to a little nostalgia in reliving the piece so many years after first encountering it.