A spiffing tale to tell, what!

Jeeves and Wooster

Malvern Theatres

****

THE English love Jeeves and Wooster! PG Wodehouse created characters with light stories to link them together that poke fun affectionately at the privileged classes in our British society. Fry and Laurie popularised them on television and now they are in the theatres around the country.

Gussie Fink-Nottle, Stiffy Byng and Stinker Pinker, Sir Roderick Spode and Sir Watkin Bassett, Madeline  and Aunt Dahlia provide a world that scarcely exists any more but which depicts a world of money, leisure, frivolity and irresponsibility, where the most serious crime seems to be the theft of a policeman’s hat!

The style of Goucher and Rubinstein’s production is reminiscent of the Reduced Shakespeare Company with a small cast of three covering the whole cast and story! This requires fast-moving switches between characters by the two actors not playing Wooster, and a slick and farcical style of performance.

This is enriched by the words a major element in the humour is the language and the linguistic subtleties that Wodehouse provides.

Wooster acts as both narrator and central character in the story and as such gets himself in a variety of pickles from which he is extricated most frequently by Jeeves with his ingenuity and contacts. He decides to portray the story in the form of a stage play in which Jeeves and Seppings play all the parts and act as stage manager and sound technicians as well. In this regard there are echoes of ‘Noises Off’ with the play within the play. 

Wooster manages to avoid any undesirable liaisons, he helps his friends to achieve their desired goals and relationships and the faintly unpleasant characters end up the butt of the jokes and with the raw end of the stick!

Robert Webb as Wooster provides a warm and endearing character whom the audience quickly grow to like. His humorous asides and chat with the audience help to establish a jolly rapport as he talks about the mechanics of the theatre as well as the predicaments in the story.

Jason Thorpe plays Jeeves, Stiffy Byng and Gussie amongst others and his range and trickery are excellent. He is less successful as Jeeves than some of the other characters he plays – his Gussie is brilliant.

The pace with which he is transformed from one role to another, disappearing through a window or under a bed as one character, before an instant later appearing through the door as another is hilarious. It is capped when he plays two roles simultaneously with one side of his costume as one character and the other side as a completely different one!

Christopher Ryan as Seppings is likewise covering a wide range of characters, male and female. He has tremendous variety and dexterity, as well as contrasting stature, and he contributes to the pace, energy and confusion that ensure that the show continues to hold the audience through to the conclusion.

Many of the comic tricks and devices are well-worn ones, some are new, but they are all executed with skill and slick control.

The set works a treat. The play opens with a very bare stage and progressively Jeeves adds more scenery and complexity to the design as the story develops. The use of the revolve, operated by the bicycle, is a wonderful comic and theatrical device.

The second act works particularly well. The play takes a little time to establish the momentum achieved later but by the end of the evening, the audience have grown close to Wooster and enjoyed the cleverness and slickness with which two of our favourite characters have come to life, though it took some time for us to get into the story and care about the outcome of the plot. To 04-04-15

Tim Crow

31-03-15 

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