‘Landlady refused to serve me in character’

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As the party season draws to a close, what better antidote to the seasonal excess than more excess?

From January 15-17 at 7.30pm, new theatre company the Lord Chamberpot’s Men, based in Fareham, will perform Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham.

Written by Keith Waterhouse, the play centres around Jeffrey Bernard, a real-life journalist who wrote a column in The Spectator and whose predisposition for horse racing, gambling, drinking and women was infamous.

‘The premise of the play is that you get to hear some of the stories – long and short – from this messy life as Jeffrey finds himself locked in his favourite pub all night,’ says Marie Ridley, co-founder of the company.

‘The play is knitted together solely from the articles that Jeffrey Bernard wrote during his ‘career’ into one flowing narrative which has plenty of humour.’

The title of the play refers to The Spectator’s habit of printing a one-line apology on a blank page when he was too drunk or hung-over to produce the required copy.

Rick Reid takes on the role of Jeffrey in this production.

‘Funnily enough the more I have studied the play and Jeffrey’s articles over the years in the Spectator I start discovering more of myself in it,’ says Rick, 45. ‘The play was essentially a vehicle for Peter O’Toole, and although no-one could claim to follow in his footsteps, O’Toole did tell Melvyn Bragg once that in fact it wasn’t intended to be a direct impersonation of Jeffrey Bernard at all.

‘I would have to concur with this, as having heard Bernard on the radio, he comes across as a less dynamic character than O’Toole led us to believe.

‘That said, the show certainly has to be full of energy as I’m not sure anyone could stand listening to me for that long.’

It is not a one-man show however. Marie along with Leigh Cunningham, Wendy Robson, Graham Robertson and Gary Cleave will play the numerous characters that Jeffrey recalls from his past, from mistresses to nightclub owners and psychiatrists.

While Rick says he could rival Jeffrey’s tales with his own, there was one particularly funny incident when preparing for this show.

‘I was fully made-up as drunken Jeffrey and, choosing to shoot pictures in a local pub than go all the way to Soho where the play is set, we selected the Golden Lion in Fareham as that most resembles a London pub.

‘Before I could even get served the landlady refused me a drink at the bar because I was obviously legless.

‘After my explanation she very kindly let us shoot pictures at and behind the bar and with a cigarette in my mouth too. Hopefully they bought a ticket.’

Tickets cost £10, visit www3.hants.gov.uk/ashcroft or call 01329 223100.