I write this review having never experienced any of P J Wodehouse’s written work; neither book nor TV adaptation; I came to this triumphant piece of theatre completely fresh and with only musings that it will probably be set pre-World War 1, English upper class society and be somewhat farcical. Not having any prior knowledge of these beautifully crafted English characters did not lessen the enjoyment or plot!
I experienced a show that was pure joy and to quote Wooster playing Wooster talking about the audience – “they’re really getting their monies worth aren’t they Jeeves”.
The curtain opens to a bare set: Wooster is performed perfectly and arguably in a role that was written for him by Stephen Mangan. Wooster is dressed in a smoking jacket aside an armchair and lamp, he immediately acknowledges the audience, breaking the fourth wall, and begins to share his story with us; “a complex case” where he requires the help of his valet Jeeves to help him act out the events. The role of Jeeves is performed with perfect comic-timing and effortless energy by Matthew Macfadyen. The third performer who helps play out the events for Wooster, is ageing man-servant Steppings, this comical and multi-layered performance comes from Mark Hadfield.
What follows is a theatrical masterpiece full of energy, belly-laughs and clever theatrical devices that are sadly rarely used in today’s West End! The piece is beautifully adapted for the London stage with the actors portraying characters who are acting out their story to us – this gives us an outcome that is not dissimilar to the Mechanicals play within Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense has a post-modern quirky quintessentially Englishness about it, taking the original work by Wodehouse and re-working it for a millennial audience to great success.
As we delve deeper in to Wooster’s play – the audience is introduced to an assembly of characters from his previous day’s events – these include favourites from Wodehouse’s original manuscripts including Gussie” Fink-Nottle, Madeline Bassett and Stephanie “Stiffy” Byng all played by Jeeves (Matthew Macfadyen) and Aunt Travers and Roderick Spode being played by Steppings played by Mark Hadfield.
The show incorporates age-old theatrical devices that are perfectly placed in the show including cross-dressing, puppetry, stuffed animals, slow-motion acting, moving-scenery controlled by a man peddling a bicycle, special-effects including a water-gun and a moving branch, some rather quick costume changes, and some rather slow costume changes. There is a real talent in being able to pull off these devices and the amount of silliness that is required and not make it look bad, unprofessional and amateur.
All of this magic and mayhem takes place alongside a postmodern commentary that warms the audience to the frivolity – as Jeeves states rather early on in Act 1 whilst building the set for Wooster, “if we fail to draw attention to the theatrical devices it makes the narrative easier to follow”.
Watching this, although the fourth wall is obviously broken (at one point Wooster gives a prop to the audience to look after ) it is easy to believe it is Jeeves and Wooster telling their story – I cannot stress how well all the performers do; for example, Never have I applauded a light switch being turned on before a show.
Laughter comes easy in this production, not more so than when Act 2 opens to Wooster taking a routine bubble bath, and when Jeeves plays both a male and a female character having an argument about who Stiffy should marry.
My favourite part of the production is the banter between Gussie and Wooster – this to me is Macfadyen and Mangan at their very best, watching the two gentleman prancing around Wooster’s bedroom in anticipation of what may come next and the best escape routes from the house had me laughing like a mad woman!
“I think I’ve done pretty well this evening” says Jeeves, well I think you have.
Review by Faye Stockley
Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense
Join Stephen Mangan as the bubbly, aristocratic fool Bertie Wooster and Matthew Macfadyen as his obedient valet Jeeves in the world premiere of this new stage play, featuring P.G. Wodehouse’s iconic double act.
Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense
A new play from the works of P G Wodehouse
by the Goodale Brothers
Sean Foley Director, Alice Power Set and Costume Designer, James Farncombe Lighting Designer, Max and Ben Ringham Sound Designers, Sarah Bird CDG Casting Director, Michael Gyngell Associate Director, Mark Goucher Producer, Mark Rubinstein Producer, Adam Blanshay Associate Producer, Eleanor Lloyd Associate Producer.
Duke of York’s Theatre
Currently booking to 8th March 2014
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Wednesday and Saturday 2.30pm
Tuesday 12th November 2013