An air of cosy sentimentality abides in the Rupert Everett-starring A Voyage Round My Father, at Richmond Theatre and touring the UK
“You get more like him every day”
For better or worse, there’s a distinct air of cosy early-Sunday-evening TV drama to Richard Eyre’s revival of A Voyage Round My Father, now playing Richmond Theatre as part of a UK tour. John Mortimer’s memoir of the unpredictable and irascible figure that was his father dates from 1970 and harks back to the 1920s to begin telling the tale of this particular father/son relationship so one can see why the production opts for this air of nostalgia.
As a memory play it is narrated by The Son, we first meet Father in, if not domestic bliss then certainly contentment but a freak bang on the head leaves Father blind. And since we’re at the apex of English stiff-upper-lip times, no-one ever mentions his blindness, even as its impact stretches right across his household, from his long-suffering wife to his dutiful son who ends up following his father into the law profession.
In some ways, it works. Bob Crowley’s gorgeous designs suggest a supercharged English country garden with real style and the level of supporting detail similarly evokes wry smiles at the way things were, particularly where the son’s boarding school experience is concerned (Julian Wadham’s headmaster a standout). And aside from that initial bang on the head, there’s a gentleness at play in the play’s studied old-fashionedness.
That gentleness can sometimes manifest as something close to torpor or even tweeness, as Eyre smooths away too many of what should be sharper edges. Rupert Everett never quite convinces us that Father was ever a tyrant, too quickly does he establish an inherent humanity to the man, though that he plays beautifully. Jack Bardoe’s son is similarly warm and so the fractiousness that should be an essential part of their relationship is dialled right down.
The result is an abiding sense of warm nostalgia and thus little real purchase for a contemporary audience searching for any resonance. They say the past is another country and that’s how distant this ends up feeling but if you’re looking for that cosy Sunday night drama feeling in the theatre, then A Voyage Round My Father could be right up your street.