A Voyage Round My Father
4 - 11 July 2020
"Dear Elizabeth. I'm so relieved to find that you can lie as mercilessly as anyone."
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”.