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A Voyage Round My Father: a moving and witty treat

A Voyage Round My Father at New Theatre, Cardiff

REVIEW by Andy Weltch

Written by Sir John Mortimer, directed by Sir Richard Eyre, and starring Golden Globe nominee Rupert Everett, the credentials for A Voyage Round My Father, which plays at the New Theatre this week, could hardly be more impressive.

And opening night last night (Tuesday 24 October) lived up to the high expectations.

This is a top-quality production in every sense. First performed more than 50 years ago, it remains as fresh as ever - at times laugh-out-loud hilarious, at other times heartbreakingly sad.

This acclaimed autobiographical play by barrister-turned-playwright, John Mortimer (creator of TV's classic Rumpole of the Bailey among much else), tells of his early life in the shadow of his eccentric father - a brilliant divorce barrister, who gave the impression of caring more for his garden than for his son.

And who would share his wisdom - over a pot of tea and home-made marmalade on toast - on subjects including earwigs, evolution, sex, Shakespeare, adultery, and the importance of avoiding anything heroic in any impending war.

A Voyage Round My Father explores the complex relationship between the young Mortimer (Jack Bardoe) and his father (Rupert Everett), whose family never questioned the patriarch's hatred of visitors and never mentioned the fact that he was blind.

Away from the family home, we meet a hugely entertaining cast of often comic characters from bumbling schoolmasters to put-upon lawyers to an ex-jockey whose dubious advice to young John leaving for boarding school is all uselessly based on his experience as a stable lad.

The central performances are outstanding, and the two leads are ably supported by a talented and versatile cast, paying 20-plus roles between them: Eleanor David, Allegra Marland, Julian Wadham,  Heather Bleasdale, Zena Carswell, John Dougall, Calum Finlay, and Richard Hodder, with Leoni Kibbey and Rob Pomfret.

And the action, directed by Richard Eyre to recreate a nostalgic view of a bygone Britain, is framed - thanks to designer Bob Crowley - in the woodland greenery of father's beloved (albeit earwig-infested) garden.

This a witty and moving play, brilliantly written and performed. It's an absolute treat.

A Voyage Round My Father plays at New Theatre, Cardiff, until Saturday 28 October. Tickets are available from the box office on or online here.

Review by Andy Weltch

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