Many of you will be familiar with Jeeves & Wooster, the classic shrewd butler and inept upper class gentleman double act creation of writer P. G. Wodehouse. Over the years there have been many adaptations of the books and tonight “Jeeves & Wooster – Perfect Nonsense” is yet another addition to the canon of works out there.
I was hoping when I went to see this show that it had not been updated for a modern audience as “Jeeves & Wooster” belong to a far more gentle time period. No worries there. The period, although not stated, looks to be around the 1930s time of the early stories.
This is a pretty simple tale of Bertie Wooster being instructed by his aunt to get a silver cow cream jug by any means for his uncle from a rival collector. A simple task that soon becomes very complicated and lands Bertie in all sorts of trouble...trouble that only the genius of Jeeves can rescue him from.
There are amazingly only three actors in this play – Jason Thorpe (Jeeves), Robert Webb (Bertie Wooster) and Christopher Ryan (Seppings). Everyone apart from Robert Webb plays multiple parts tonight, male and female (sometimes both at the same time).
Robert Webb is perfectly cast as the well-meaning but inept upper class Bertie Wooster and has that great combination of comic timing and ease with a live audience that you need to play a part like this. Robert also treads that fine line of playing Bertie as the upper class fool that he is without turning the character into a clown. The play is cleverly adapted and directed by The Goodale brothers and Sean Foley and in a style that involves Bertie talking directly to the audience at times and involving them in the show. To do that, you need someone like Robert Webb in the part that the audience warms to almost immediately.
Jason Thorpe is great as the serious one of the pair in his part as Jeeves and there are very nice touches to this play such as the set being built by him as we go along. Jeeves of course arranges everything for Bertie Wooster, so set building is just part of the job description.
Christopher Ryan is also a delight to watch on stage tonight, and there is obvious pleasure being had by all three of our actors on stage performing this play. Everyone works together so well here and you need that if the comedy timing is going to be pulled off properly, and it is.
There are a lot of “sight gags” on stage tonight and some of them are very ingenious. A few of them do get a bit over-used at times, but this is after all the world of Bertie Wooster and that is always a slightly surreal place to be in.
The men play all the parts tonight including the female parts, and while this is very well done and funny in places, I would have been happy to have lost some of that comedy farce and had the younger ladies played by an actress; in parts they could have done with an extra person on stage. Keeping the younger female parts female would also have made the play a far straighter story and added to some of the humour without the farcical element being introduced. My opinion only here though as judging from the audience laughter many of them loved everything as it was.
This is a lovely gentle play to go and see, a real family night out show that is going to amuse everyone and offend no-one (I hope). With three talented comedy actors on stage, great timing and a nice warm involvement with the audience, this is the type of comedy which really belongs in a live theatre.
One of the highlights of the show for me is a lovely little dance routine right at the very end by all three cast members. Just a perfect way to end the show.
Review by Tom King