Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell

Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell


There’s a mighty fine cast in this drama, including Nichola McAuliffe and Miles Jupp. But there is only one real star: John Hurt. He plays to his absolute strengths as the dissolute and drunken journalist Jeffrey Bernard.

Written as a biographical play by Keith Waterhouse, it was first performed in 1989 when Bernard was still alive. I wonder what he made of it? I suspect he was chuffed. The title comes from a line The Spectator used to run when Bernard’s lifestyle meant he failed to deliver his copy on time — but still they kept going back to him for more.

Similarly, his obsession with women and sex did not preclude him from getting married four times. Bernard wakes at dawn to find himself locked in the Coach and Horses pub in London’s Soho and proceeds to help himself to vodka after vodka, while recalling key moments from his life — those he can remember, that is, after a life where the bottle has been his real muse.

This production was recorded on location at Gerry’s Club, on Dean Street, Soho, and it’s a worthwhile exercise listening to it through good speakers, as every clink of glass, every gulp and smack of the lips, every rattling matchbox to suck on a cigarette, really creates a smouldering atmosphere of debauchery, wantonness and waste. This is one man’s hell and it’s definitely of his own making, but, as Hurt conveys so brilliantly, Bernard is enjoying himself, just as much as he is suffering.


John Hurt stars in Keith Waterhouse's biographical play of the notorious Spectator columnist, set early in the morning in Soho pub the Coach and Horses. With Nichola McAuliffe, Jeff Rawle, Amelia Bullmore and Miles Jupp.

Cast & Crew

Jeffrey Bernard John Hurt
Actor Nichola McAuliffe
Actor Jeff Rawle
Actor Amelia Bullmore
Actor Miles Jupp
Producer Celia de Wolff
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