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Thursday, August 5, 1999 Published at 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK


Entertainment

O'Toole's triumphant return

Cheers: Writer Keith Waterhouse and Peter O'Toole

Peter O'Toole's return to the London stage in Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell met with a rapturous reception on Wednesday night.

The audience, including actors Kevin Spacey, David Soul and Tom Conti, were in stitches at his performance, and broke into spontaneous applause midway through the first act of the play about the notorious hard-drinking journalist who died in 1997.


[ image: Don't mention the Scottish play: O'Toole in 1980's ill-fated Macbeth]
Don't mention the Scottish play: O'Toole in 1980's ill-fated Macbeth
O'Toole won huge acclaim when he first played Bernard a decade ago, and he joined members of the original cast for the revival of the play, written by Keith Waterhouse and produced by Ned Sherrin.

The show also marks a triumphant return to the Old Vic for O'Toole, whose last appearance there - in a 1980 production of Macbeth - met with scathing reviews.

The production is based around the recollections of Bernard, a legend in the bohemian London district of Soho, notorious for his womanising, gambling and drinking in the Coach and Horses pub - the interior of which is recreated on stage.

Standing ovation

O'Toole, who received a standing ovation at the end of the performance, decided with Waterhouse and Sherrin to revive the production when they met at Bernard's funeral.


[ image: Happy hour: O'Toole at the Coach and Horses]
Happy hour: O'Toole at the Coach and Horses
Hollywood star Spacey, who flew into the UK especially for the production said: "There are some things that you cannot miss in life - Peter O'Toole at the Old Vic is one of them."

Spacey - a trustee of the theatre - added: "I could not be happier to see him. I actually missed him when he did it originally so I had to be there this time.

"He's incredible and he can do no wrong as far as I am concerned."

Keith Waterhouse said: "It's wonderful to see him in it after 10 years. He brought a new depth - Jeff being dead seems to add something to the play, especially in the second act and the melancholy where he is talking about being dead."

He called O'Toole's acting "the best performance I've ever seen".



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