REVIEW: JEEVES AND WOOSTER IN ‘PERFECT NONSENSE’ (Bridewell Theatre) ★★★★
Jeeves and Wooster are a classic comedy duo, originally devised by P G Wodehouse, who wrote the first of his series “Jeeves” in 1915. Among other things, the stories of Jeeves and Wooster have inspired a musical – with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber – and the TV series co-starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. “Jeeves and Wooster in ‘Perfect Nonsense’” is based on Wodehouse’s original characters and was written by David and Robert Goodale.
Jeeves is a loyal and cunning butler, who is forever rescuing his wealthy master, Wooster, from whatever sticky situation he has gotten himself into next. In “Perfect Nonsense”, Wooster rather innocently becomes entangled in a situation where he is trying to help an old friend, whilst at the same time being blackmailed by a number of acquaintances – all of whom need him to carry out a number of tasks that just so happen to contradict each other. But if he doesn’t do what they all need or want, there are going to be less than ideal consequences for him. And all Wooster really wanted to do was go to the park to feed the ducks!
Whilst there are six or so characters involved in this particular story, Tower Theatre Company has decided that three actors is more than enough for this particular production – and so all the characters are played by the very-talented William Baltyn, Theo Leonard and Michael Bettell.
The threesome put on an absolutely hilarious performance. Leonard plays Wooster the whole time, and he creates and maintains a comedic energy throughout the play that is simply superb. I have seen Leonard in other productions and I have to say he is an absolutely first-class actor.
The premise of the show is that Wooster is actually putting a play on for us – with the (much-needed) help of Jeeves of course – in order to tell the story of his latest escapade. Wooster is incredibly excited to be acting on the big stage and suitably amazed at the impressive set and props, which Jeeves is meant to have arranged.
Baltyn plays an amusing Jeeves, but he also – along with Bettell – takes on the role of any of the other characters. The two interchange between the roles brilliantly and with excellent comic effect. At certain points there are too many characters onstage for each to be played by an individual actor, but numerous hysterical ways are devised in which all characters are represented – even if they are momentarily portrayed by a lampshade!
Every opportunity for comedy is squeezed well, but there were just a few moments where the play fell a bit flat. I adored a number of Bettell’s characters immensely, and felt he did a lot to add to the energy of the production as a whole. I also liked a few of the additional characters Baltyn played; but whilst Roger Beaumont’s direction was good, I felt the show lost some of its energy during some of the scenes with Stephanie ‘Stiffy’ Byng.
Overall, the show was fantastic though. In fact, it helped me finally decide on my favourite sort of theatre – clever comedy, with a generous scoop of ridiculous!
￼￼Reviewed by Rachel Watts
Photo: Robert Piwko
JEEVES AND WOOSTER IN ‘PERFECT NONSENSE’ plays at the Bridewell Theatre until 10 December 2016