A Voyage Round My Father

A Voyage Round My Father

A Voyage Round My Father

John Mortimer

POSTPONED

David Parton

4 - 11 July 2020

Performances

Sat 7:45pm, Mon 7:45pm, Tue 7:45pm, Wed 7:45pm, Thu 7:45pm, Fri 7:45pm, Sat 2:45pm, Sat 7:45pm

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"Dear Elizabeth. I'm so relieved to find that you can lie as mercilessly as anyone."

Director's Notes

Writers who have graduated from one profession to another tend to follow one of two disparate directions. Wind in the Willows, for example, marks as big a jump for the erstwhile Secretary of the Bank of England as can be imagined. Others, as in the case of John Mortimer, draw heavily on their previous profession and anchor their creations firmly in that context. With A Voyage Round My Father Mortimer has, in part, opted for the latter route but with the important difference that the play is so imbued with autobiographical elements that it becomes almost impossible for the spectator to assess what are quasi-true reflections of young John’s family life and what are products of a fertile imagination. Family and social dysfunction has become the hallmark of much modern drama, taking the protests of Mortimer’s contemporaneous Angry Young Men to new and excoriating heights. But, while there is much in this play from 1957 which might be expected to upset even a modern audience, the sting is expertly drawn by the ever-present, albeit sardonic, humour that permeates the action and the text. Delve behind the acerbic language of Father and you will find that the physically blind old rascal actually possesses 20-20 acuity. Father is no respecter of people or conventions and he certainly does not suffer fools gladly. When he says to his daughter-in-law; “Dear Elizabeth. I’m so relieved to find that you can lie as mercilessly as anyone”, there will be many who, like Wilde, will think inwardly: “I wish I’d said that”.

Audition Info
Audition Sat 22 February 2020 10:30am foyer

With A Voyage Round My Father Mortimer has, in part, opted for the latter route but with the important difference that the play is so imbued with autobiographical elements that it becomes almost impossible for the spectator to assess what are quasi-true reflections of young John’s family life and what are products of a fertile imagination. Family and social dysfunction has become the hallmark of much modern drama, taking the protests of Mortimer’s contemporaneous Angry Young Men to new and excoriating heights. But, while there is much in this play from 1957 which might be expected to upset even a modern audience, the sting is expertly drawn by the ever-present, albeit sardonic, humour that permeates the action and the text. Delve behind the acerbic language of Father and you will find that the physically blind old rascal actually possesses 20-20 acuity. Father is no respecter of people or conventions and he certainly does not suffer fools gladly. When he says to his daughter-in-law; “Dear Elizabeth. I’m so relieved to find that you can lie as mercilessly as anyone”, there will be many who, like Wilde, will think inwardly: “I wish I’d said that”. John Mortimer’s largely autobiographical perception of his relationship with his father serves as a springboard for a challenging, but highly enjoyable, mix of outrageous humour, doctrinaire views and an inability to suffer fools to any extent - and certainly not gladly. The key to the play is pace where any let-up in momentum risks the collapse of the entire edifice of believing in the unbelievable. I look forward to seeing a great number of you at the audition before we set out on our own voyage of discovery.

Characters

Father

(Fifties to sixties). A cantankerous and highly regarded divorce lawyer, blinded by an accident many years previously, but as obdurate in denying the fact of his blindness as he is in his refusal to conform in other ways. Bursts regularly into song and quotes widely from the classics. The singing requires vehemence rather than musicality.

Son

(Twenties to forties). In many ways a chip off the old block but fights his own corner even when openly admiring and emulating his father. Plays himself as a child and frequently addresses the audience directly. No concessions are made when playing himself as a child – just a grown man with those hairy legs.

Mother

Forties to fifties). By definition a long-suffering woman who aids and abets her husband’s highly idiosyncratic behaviour, not least of all his rejection of his blindness. Like her son she serves as her husband’s eyes but never in a way that would suggest his dependence on her.

Elizabeth

(Thirties to forties). A strong character who takes such things as a divorce, bringing up a family and remarriage more or less in her stride. She gives as good as she gets in relation to her new father-in-law and there is an element of mutual respect.

Headmaster

(Fifties to sixties). Eccentric owner of a third-rate prep-school whose ethos is anchored in Empire and cold showers. – the latter as a cure-all for vaguely suggested ‘urges’ that will face his young charges when they take their incipient puberty to a senior school with all the attendant dangers to their moral welfare and sexual proclivities. Doubles with George, the legal clerk.

Ham

(Thirties to forties). The maths master at the disreputable prep-school. Displays alarming signs of residual ‘shell-shock’ from WW1. Doubles with Boustead (Counsel in the Divorce Courts), Sparks (chief electrician and union convenor on the film set) and Mr Morrow (clearly deranged would-be litigant).

Miss Cox

(Twenties to forties). Partner of Miss Baker. Member of a bohemian set, harking back to halcyon days in the South of France, now running the new bookshop near the station, fearing enforced separation through the wartime call-up and, in the Father’s unseeing eyes, unwelcome new neighbours. Doubles with Matron (non-speaking part), Doris (Unit Manager on film set) and Miss Ferguson, tough social worker.

Miss Baker

(Twenties to forties). The other half of the bookshop couple. The Son refers to her as being ‘soft and feathery’ but seems to be destined for service as a Land Girl. Doubles with Mrs Reigate – no dialogue, but capable of bellowing out ‘God of our Fathers’ in a ‘rich patriotic contralto’ (as a preferred type of voice). Also 1st ATS – Auxiliary Territorial Service – in short duologue film scene. Plus Witness with flowered gloves and hat.

Ringer Lean

(Forties to fifties). The school handyman/porter/chauffeur. Ex-stable lad – seen it all. Homespun philosopher – rough diamond. Also plays Thong – private investigator, specialising in divorce cases – lacks imagination and not too many grey cells. Plus film director – busy man, Lord of the studio.

Japhet

(Thirties to fifties). The second master. Majors on personal appearance and manners and Lydia, the boys’ bed-maker. ‘Plays’ the ukulele – i.e. two chords, and sings nasally. Doubles as ineffective judge. Peppery judge. Non-speaking cameraman and the Doctor – who really wants to be somewhere else.

Reigate

(Twenties to thirties). A schoolboy – at the prep-school. More worldly-wise than the Son and something of a fantasist with only a fleeting familiarity with the truth. Doubles as ‘First Boy’ (Elizabeth’s son from 1st marriage).

Iris

(Twenties to thirties). Very down to earth young girl who has never confused a spade with anything else. Direct, unpolished, not a time waster. Doubles as 2nd ATS girl. Also girl (Elizabeth’s daughter from 1st marriage).

2nd Boy

Elizabeth’s 2nd son from 1st marriage. Doubles as technician in film studio scene.

Scripts are available from David Parton (davidparton673@btinternet.com or 07714726576).