What’s it all about?
Two of the best loved and most hilarious characters in 20th century literature. Wooster, the endearing but intellectually-challenged young man of the British upper classes who relies on his dutiful valet Jeeves to attend to his every need, is putting on a play based on his recent escapades at Totleigh Towers. Unable to portray the story in all its glory solely through his own acting capabilities, he recruits Jeeves and his fellow butler Seppings as co-stars. The action involves a silver cow creamer, a misplaced notebook and the theft of a policeman’s hat; the result is laughter… and lots of it.
Who’s in it?
James Lance and John Gordon Sinclair are the third comedy pairing to take on the iconic roles in this adaptation of P G Wodehouse’s comic novels. They follow Stephen Mangan and Matthew McFadyen, and Robert Webb and Mark Heap, who have all played the loveable toff and his obedient butler since Sean Foley’s production premiered in November 2013. In the hands of Lance and Sinclair, there is just as much laughter as ever. Lance proves himself a champion chortler in the role of Wooster, his every look, movement and mannerism provoking optimum amusement from the audience. Sinclair is wonderfully cast as his trusty servant Jeeves, who alongside Robert Goodale’s Seppings has to play multiple roles in Wooster’s tomfoolery-filled production. Sinclair’s performance makes for a comically feminine Stiffy Byng and a wonderfully objectionable Sir Watkyn Bassett, and even succeeds – with the help of an ingenious bit of costume design – to portray them both simultaneously. Goodale, as another valet drafted in to help stage the show, has an equally eclectic array of characters to play, but will be remembered for his logistically challenging turn as a domineering dictator who he succeeds in making twice his height.
The standing ovation at last night’s performance was well-deserved by all but must have been particularly rewarding for Goodale, who not only gave an outstanding performance but co-wrote the show too.
What should I look out for?
Alice Power’s evolving set. A sparse stage populated with little more than a chair is transformed throughout the evening into the dazzling interior of Totleigh Towers, all with the help of Jeeves and Seppings’ resourceful pulley systems and a fair amount of leg power on behalf of the two butlers.
In a nutshell?
A sanctuary of silliness and slapstick that brings to life some of the best-loved comedy characters of all-time.
What’s being said on Twitter?
@verbalictor @bertiewooster – a brilliantly entertaining evening. Theatre at its comedy best. Excellent performances by all 3. Treat.
@strictlyspills Brilliant show tonight @bertiewooster – best curtain call ever with some epic turns from James Lance #twirly
Will I like it?
What’s not to like about this bonkers comedy farce? Foley’s production perfectly captures the work of P G Wodehouse, and with its consistently high calibre performances and an Olivier Award under its belt it will no doubt continue to entertain audiences in the West End for some time to come.
Jeeves And Wooster In Perfect Nonsense is booking until 17 January 2015. You can book tickets through us.
Jeeves And Wooster In Perfect Nonsense originally opened in November 2013 when the following First Night Feature by Charlotte Marshall was published:
Fans of farce, lovers of The Ladykillers and those who respect the ridiculous are in for a treat this winter with the Goodale brothers’ stage adaptation of literature’s most delightfully silly pairing.
For many, say Jeeves and Wooster and Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie will jump to mind as the picture of the unflappable butler and lovable buffoon. But Matthew Macfadyen and Stephen Mangan have stepped into their highly polished, iconic shoes with absolute ease; making the roles their own with clear affection for the unlikely twosome.
In the Goodales’ bizarrely convoluted yet hilariously twee story of stolen police helmets, antique cow-shaped creamers, aggressive terriers and love triangles, Mangan takes the lead, addressing the audience directly to deliver Wooster’s trademark peculiar one-liners – describing someone as having “the sort of eye that can open an oyster at 60 paces” is a personal favourite – and setting up the evening as a play within a play.
Here to recount the story of multiple blackmails and silver creamers – if that doesn’t sound thrilling, Wooster’s enthusiastic rubber-faced expressions and frequent self-congratulations more than makes up for it – the magic of theatre unfolds before us as Jeeves ensures Wooster’s evening goes with a bang with a range of hilariously-employed props appearing on stage much to the English gent’s slack-jawed, japes-loving enjoyment.
Carving himself a niche as the king of farce following his Olivier Award nominated success with The Ladykillers, director Sean Foley brings touches of his uniquely inventive sense of fun and humour to every scene. The stage’s revolve is powered by Macfadyen’s stony faced Jeeves, while lampshades become hats, curtains elegant dresses and a seven foot man grows increasingly taller with the help of various wheeled, cumbersome structures.
While the numerous props, silly names – Gussie Fink-Nottle and Stiffy Byng both make an appearance – farcical storylines and slapstick comedy keep Wooster’s attentive audience guffawing, the real entertainment comes with watching how hard the cast works, barely breaking a sweat despite two hours working their 1930s socks off.
Mangan gets off the lightest, tasked only with having to joyfully play the intellectually challenged toff, which he does with aplomb, while Macfadyen and Mark Hadfield are faced with the rather more daunting role of playing everyone else in Wooster’s hilariously trivial yarn.
Relying on quick change and silly wigs to the max, Hadfield impressively transforms from a hobbling butler to the babbling, formidable Aunt Dehali or comedy villain Roderick Spode in, if not quite a flash, a hilariously – and deliberately – bumbling shuffle.
Macfadyen works possibly hardest of all, peeling away his wearisome façade as Jeeves to drag it up as jolly hockey sticks Stiffy or a languishing lady of the manor; at one point even playing both a fierce moustached, pipe smoking uncle on his left hand side, jumping 180 degrees to reveal the flirtatious niece on the other.
If PG Wodehouse’s sense of humour is not a perfect match for yours, the exhaustingly but perfectly executed performances will still entertain. But for the many who remember Wodehouse’s stories with affection, Perfect Nonsense will more than live up to its name and no doubt prove a perfectly jolly, ridiculously dotty festive treat.