JEEVES & WOOSTER in PERFECT NONSENSE
The REP, Birmingham, Monday 9th March, 2015
Where some adaptations of the writings of P G Wodehouse can fall short is that in translating the characters and the plots from the page to the stage or screen, they lose the author’s voice, which is a key part of the enjoyment for me. This version by the Goodale Brothers, wisely lets Bertie Wooster narrate proceedings, just as he does in the novels that feature his exploits, and so the wit of Wodehouse is undiminished.
It’s glorious fun. Lovable upper class twit Bertie (Robert Webb being truly excellent) recounts a particularly silly adventure involving blackmail, romantic intrigue and an antique silver cow creamer, with the assistance of trusty manservant Jeeves (Jason Thorpe) and a comparatively decrepit butler Seppings (Christopher Ryan). This latter pair take on a host of eccentric, larger-than-life characterisations. Thorpe is superb – especially as Stiffy Byng and Madeline Bassett, while Ryan (who may not be a Young One anymore) hurls himself around the stage as Aunt Dahlia and ridiculous giant Spode.
This is a production that revels in its own theatricality, smashing the fourth wall to smithereens in a hilarious and charming manner. Sean Foley directs his cast of three at breakneck speed. There is a sense that things must not be allowed to lag for a second, the laughs must keep coming or, like a delicate soufflé the whole enterprise will fall flat. It’s knockabout stuff, farcical and tremendously funny, and I am reminded of the attempts at dramatic production by Morecambe & Wise, which is no bad thing at all.
Alice Power’s set and costume designs lend period charm and the choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille is purely delightful. The entire show is relentlessly amusing, charming and carried off with such brio, you leave the theatre with one of Bertie’s wide-mouth grins plastered all over your face.