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Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell (Salford)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Gambler, journalist, misogynist and urban legend Jeffrey Bernard looks back over his alcohol-sodden life when locked in his favourite pub. Keith Waterhouse based his script upon Bernard’s articles. As the two were amongst the funniest writers in the UK, its success depends on the skill of the word play rather than any action. It would probably work just as well on radio as the stage.

This limits the innovations that director Gayle Hare can offer to ensuring that the cast create the various spectres from Bernard’s past with a minimum of props and a maximum of skill. Only a nerve-racking (if you’re sat in the front row) stunt with an egg and a recreation of cat racing make the play less static.

Phil Dennison portrays Bernard as a reflective rather than triumphant survivor. Essentially a comedic performance, he carries an enormous regret for the loss of his friends and the culture that he adored. The physical effects of Bernard’s lifestyle are chillingly portrayed but his charisma shines through.

Despite rough edges, it is surprising that Organised Chaos classify their first show by an established writer as an ‘amateur’ performance.

- Dave Cunningham

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