Tom Conti returned to the West End last night (19 June 2006, previews from 12 June) to recreate his title role in Keith Waterhouse’s 1989 play Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell for a limited season at the Garrick Theatre (See News, 12 May 2006).

Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell is based around the recollections of the late journalist, a legend in the bohemian London district of Soho, notorious for his womanising, gambling and drinking in the Coach and Horses pub, where the play is set.

TO VIEW JEFFREY BERNARD OPENING NIGHT TV FOOTAGE, JUST CLICK
ON THE "PLAY" ARROW > BUTTON TO THE LEFT OF THE TV SCREEN BELOW.

For Whatsonstage.com TV was on hand for the curtain call and the post-show party held – appropriately - at the Coach and Horses in Greek Street. Other first night guests included Neil and Christine Hamilton, Richard Littlejohn, Eve Best, Guy Henry as well as jazz legend George Melly, former Coach and Horses landlord Norman Balon (who features in the play) and other contemporaries of the Spectator columnist.

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 Keith Waterhouse’s play, directs again.

After last night’s performance, we spoke to theatregoers and celebrity guests as well as playwright, director and cast members Tom Conti, Royce Mills, Elizabeth Payne, Tristan Gemmill and Nina Young to find out what they thought about the play and the man it’s based on.

- by Terri Paddock