Writer: P. G. Wodehouse
Adaptors: Robert and David Goodale
Director: Sean Foley
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
Frolics and fun abound in the stories of P.G. Wodehouse, featuring the accident-prone aristo Bertie Wooster and his ‘gentleman’s gentleman.’ This adaptation by the Goodale Brothers of Wodehouse’s work is redolent with the atmosphere of a bygone era – you can almost smell the aroma of smoke from the finest of cigars and taste the tingle of a fine old cognac. The comedy and gentle humour of the original is well maintained and to be enjoyed for what it is. In other words – not to be taken too seriously.
The focus is a country weekend where a cast of Wodehouse characters run amok, depicted as a play within a play masterminded by the ever-optimistic Bertie, aided and abetted by the imperturbable Jeeves with a plaster for every sore. Storyline – such as it is – centres around a love match and a silver cow creamer with a multitude of twists and turns to keep interest on the boil.
With his dark locks licked back from a side parting, Ed Hancock is a likeable Jeeves fitting neatly into a rôle that might be described as everybody’s favourite nephew, while Jason Thorpe maintains throughout a suitable degree of imperturbability as the very English butler Jeeves, although some of the interaction between the two characters which is central to Wodehouse needs sharpening at times. Thorpe also doubles as a variety of other characters, such as Gussie Fink-Nottle, who inveigles Bertie into helping him sort his love life. With only three actors charged with the task of bringing the authentic voice of Wodehouse to the stage, the task is not an easy one, but that versatile actor Christopher Ryan as Seppings inter alia copes admirably, giving us a bucolic policeman and an Aunt Dahlia who, despite her be-hatted and be-gloved appearance, is more Mrs Mop than M’Lady. Don’t worry too much if you can’t keep pace with it all, as characters dash on and off the stage and confusion follows confusion.
Sets, cleverly designed by Alice Power to interchange, are minimal and yet in keeping with the period and contribute much towards ensuring authenticity with the Twenties style of the piece, as do the recordings of the Charleston and other jazz music under the direction of Ben and Max Ringham. The original production of Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense was staged at the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End in 2013 – exactly a hundred years since Wodehouse came across the name Jeeves and saw its potential for comedy – and won an Olivier Award for director Sean Foley. In its present format as a touring production some of that lustre may have worn off a little, but providing you accept and acknowledge the conventions of the time when the play was written, it is still good for laughs.
Runs until Saturday June 13th 2015.