FORMER National Theatre director Sir Richard Eyre brings a soft focus to this new production of John Mortimer’s celebrated autobiographical play, A Voyage Round My Father, at the Theatre Royal in Bath.

The first version of the play appeared as a series of three half-hour sketches for BBC radio in 1963 and it was later adapted for the stage in 1971 and for television in 1982.

Growing up in the shadow of a brilliant and eccentric divorce law barrister, a dutiful son continually yearns for the love and respect of his overbearing father, who goes blind after banging his head on the branch of an apple tree.

Thereafter, blindness was never mentioned within the family but the father becomes a man who adores his garden and hates visitors.

His tea-time conversations with his wife and son take in music hall, adultery, evolution, Shakespeare, the ridiculous inconvenience of sex and the importance of avoiding anything heroic in wartime.

A Voyage Round My Father introduces its audience to an intriguing world of hilarious eccentrics, bumbling headteachers and exasperated relatives, whilst shining a light on the delicate relationship between a young man growing up and his father.

The play has opened in Bath with the cast led by star of stage and screen Rupert Everett as the irascible father coming to terms with the loss of his sight, Jack Bardoe playing the dutiful son both as a schoolboy and as an adult, and Eleanor David playing the son’s long-suffering and loyal mother and Doris.

It’s both a memory play and a coming-of-age tale, as the son initially silently judges the father but then abandons a dream of becoming a writer to follow in his footsteps by taking up the law.

After leaving boarding school, he eventually meets and marries his wife Elizabeth (Allegra Marland), and then gradually adopts his father’s behaviour and mannerisms. At one point, Elizabeth angrily observes: “You get more like him every day.”

The acting cannot be faulted but the production lacks the powerful theatricality of earlier versions.

The original 1971 stage adaptation of A Voyage Round My Father starred Alec Guinness as the father and Jeremy Brett as the son, appearing in the West End at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

It later returned to television screens in 1982 as a film, shot in John Mortimer’s own house, starring Laurence Olivier, Alan Bates, Elizabeth Sellars and Jane Asher.

The nostalgia soft focus brought to this production by Sir Richard Eyre, who was asked to give an eulogy at Mortimer’s funeral in 2009, brings an added layer of remembrance but deprives the play of emotional intensity.

The only laughs are generated by Julian Wadham in a superb performance as the school headmaster, who brings a highly amusing awkwardness to his euphemistic sex education talk, in which he advises a class of pre-pubescent public school boys to take cold baths or go for a run whenever they 'feel the urge'.

Completing the cast and playing multiple roles are John Dougall, Heather Bleasdale, Richard Hodder, Calum Finlay and Zena Carswell.

The world-class artistic team is led by Sir Richard Eyre, alongside Olivier and Tony Award-winning creatives including designer Bob Crowley, co-lighting designer Hugh Vanstone and co-lighting designer Sam Waddington.

I enjoyed the acting performances but was left disappointed, as this production takes a nostalgic look back at a father-son relationship that seems far removed from our time.

A Voyage Round My Father appears at the Theatre Royal Bath until Saturday, October 7 prior to a UK tour. To book tickets contact the Theatre Royal Bath Box Office on 01225 448844 or book online at