Review: Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense at the Bridewell Theatre
Jeeves and Wooster: they probably don’t need much of an introduction. P.G. Wodehouse’s jolly but dim aristocrat Bertie Wooster and his unflappable valet Jeeves have been a successful duo in print, on TV and, since two years ago, in the theatre. Writers David and Robert Goodale had a proper hit on their hands when their play opened in the West End three years ago, with Stephen Mangan and Matthew Macfayden in the leads. And now Tower Theatre Company have brought Jeeves and Wooster’s adventures to the Bridewell Theatre, for anyone who missed the hype the first time round.
The show revolves around what basically is an incredibly elaborate anecdote involving Wooster’s friend Gussie Fink-Nottle, Gussie’s fiancée Madeline and her extended family, as well as Wooster’s own aunt. I’ll leave trying to briefly explain the rather convoluted plot to more talented writers than myself, but let it suffice to say that there is a silver cream jug in the shape of a cow that everyone wants to get their hands on. This naturally causes an enormous amount of trouble for the hapless Wooster, but fortunately Jeeves is there to save the day.
The charm of the show, as anyone who has seen it in the West End will probably recall, lies in the ‘make do and mend’ aesthetic of the play. It makes it a perfect vehicle for fringe theatre, as well as providing plenty of opportunity for farcical quick-changes, a good bit of physical comedy and a lot of jokes about low-budget theatre. While Wooster only has to do the easy bit, which is playing himself, Jeeves and his butler colleague Seppings play all the other parts, do set changes, control the lights and, in one particularly memorable scene, provide sound effects. If you like Noises Off, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.
The performances from all three actors are very good: Theo Leonard demonstrates a truly elastic face and an endearing cluelessness as Bertie Wooster; William Baltyn remains impressively composed as Jeeves, but also gets to go completely overboard when two of the characters he plays are on stage at the same time, having an argument; Michael Bettell shows off a hilarious range of physical ticks and traits with every new character he plays. On this first night of the run the occasional line gets fibbed, and, although it’s sometimes hard to tell, some of farcical mishaps that occur throughout the play seemed to be genuine mistakes. Of course, the great thing about a show like this is that it doesn’t really matter, as long as you carry it off, and that’s exactly what the cast do. A jolly good evening at the theatre, old chaps.
Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense is playing at the Bridewell Theatre until 10 December 2016