Keith Waterhouse’s play is based around the recollections of the late Spectator writer Jeffrey Bernard, a legend in the bohemian London district of Soho, notorious for his womanising, gambling and drinking in the Coach and Horses pub.
Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell was last seen in the West End in a sell-out eight-week season at the Old Vic where Peter O'Toole had another go in the title role he had originated in 1989 at the Apollo Theatre, where Conti succeeded him. Ned Sherrin, who has directed all of the previous West End seasons of the play, directs again. This is Conti’s third time tackling the title role. He’s joined in the cast by Royce Mills, Elizabeth Payne, Tristan Gemmill and Nina Young.
While most still found Waterhouse’s play amusing, if dated, overnight critics inevitably held Conti’s more likeable performance up against Peter O’Toole’s original characterisation and some found it wanting by comparison.
- by Caroline Ansdell