School pals Rupert Everett and Julian Wadham reunited at Chichester Festival Theatre

A Voyage Round My Father at Chichester Festival Theatre brings together schoolboy friends Rupert Everett and Julian Wadham for maybe the tenth time in their career.
Richard Hodder, Julian Wadham and Eleanor David ©MHRichard Hodder, Julian Wadham and Eleanor David ©MH
Richard Hodder, Julian Wadham and Eleanor David ©MH

They share the stage in John Mortimer’s piece, directed by Richard Eyre, which is at the CFT from Tuesday, November 7-Saturday, November 11.

“Rupert and I have known each other since we were 13 or 14,” Julian says. “We were school boys together and then at drama school together and we really have worked together a lot over the years. And I think that just gives you a tremendous affection. We have known each other and loved each other for years, and we have always shared a passion and a love for the theatre.

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“We were at one of those boys schools at Ampleforth which was an odd mix of being boys only and monastic so it meant that we ended up playing all the girls’ roles. I played all the Mayfair hostesses and Rupert played all the sexy girls – and that hasn't changed since!"

Julian also worked with Rupert on the original West End production of Another Country, a piece Julian returned to when it was revived in Chichester ten years ago. Julian had earlier been part of a Chichester season with Nicholas Hytner in 1985 when he was in Cavalcade, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Philanthropist: "It was a great time. It was in the days of the tent when the tent was the tent (the precursor to the Minerva Theatre). Junior members of the company were able to play leading roles in tent productions. I was Malvolio. I have very happy memories of that summer and I think it was a very important moment for Nicholas Hytner who went on to become director of the National and employed lots of us from the season.”

As for A Voyage Round My Father, the piece is John Mortimer’s celebrated autobiographical play. Growing up in the shadow of a brilliant and eccentric barrister, a man whose tea-time conversation could take in music hall, adultery, evolution, the ridiculous inconvenience of sex, Shakespeare and the importance of avoiding anything heroic in wartime, the son continually yearns for his father’s love and respect…

“It is a memoir about this much loved father. I have also lost my own father who I loved very deeply and Rupert has written several times very affectionately about his own parents and Richard Eyre who is directing us has also written about his father. And I just think it will appeal because of that. It's the universal appeal of that relationship even when that relationship is complex and difficult.”

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Nothing prepares you for the loss of a parent: “And that is what the play deals with but it does so very entertainingly. I think some of the critics wanted a production that was rather darker but I don't think John Mortimer was a great one for taking darker turns. The play goes for a lighter tone though it certainly hints at the darkness that is there. I am playing five roles which is rather enjoyable but the main role, I suppose, is as the headmaster who is this man that people of my age and generation will remember, the universal figure of the prep school or public school head. In my day a lot of them were war wounded.”