Jack Bardoe as John and Rupert Everett as his father. Picture: Manuel Harlan

A Voyage Round My Father

Malvern Theatres


The relationships between fathers and their sons are complex, nuanced and hugely influential. John Mortimer was a successful lawyer as well as a writer; the play A Voyage Round My Father, which he wrote in the 1960s*. is an autobiographical exploration of his own complicated relationship with his father – a brilliant but eccentric barrister with a sharp tongue and trenchant wit.

As we enter the theatre we are faced with a grand scene depicting the garden where Mortimer’s father spent many of his leisure hours, hunting earwigs among the dahlias apparently. The scene has the freshness of greenery, trees, vegetation and a bright sky.

We follow the young John’s story from childhood through school, a legal career and eventually into authorship. It seems a remote world from our own modernity: corporal punishment, boarding school conventions, peaked school caps and shorts, misogyny etc. It is briskly portrayed in witty more than nostalgic tones, yet through it all, and despite his father’s deprecating manner towards him, John has a fondness and admiration for his despotic, sharp-witted and eventually blind forebear.

The ensemble cast bring wonderful characters and caricatures briefly to life in John’s experience. It is a varied and talented team. The key characters are of course John Mortimer himself, ably played by Jack Bardot, who captures the awkwardness of youth and teenage very effectively, as well as the adult lawyer and writer. Eleanor David is the steady, long suffering mother who manages the irascible father with extraordinary grace, patience and skill. Allegra Marland plays Elizabeth who marries John despite the father-in-law’s discouragement.

Rupert Everett takes the role of the father with great charisma.. He communicates the brilliance of a man who is ultimately frustrated, one feels, and struggling, not only with his blindness, but also to find fulfilment in his life despite the success in his career.

The creative team have done an excellent job with the striking but simple set, complemented by appropriate furniture and props, lighting and sound, to depict the many varied scenes in John’s life – home, garden, classroom, law court, film set etc. Richard Eyre brings a hugely experienced and assured hand to the direction and cohesion of the whole production. We visit another world – the upper middle class of British society in the first half of the twentieth century. It is nostalgic and humorous, yet tinged with some sadness.

A Voyage Round My Father runs at Malvern Theatres until Saturday 4th November.

Tim Crow


*A Voyage Round My Father started life in 1963 as three half hour BBC radio sketches, those then became a television play and that was then adapted for the stage in 1971 with Alec Guinness as the father. 

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