It may have been purely coincidental that this new stage adaptation was enjoying its early days at the West End; at the same time novelist Sebastian Faulks had released his own P G Wodehouse take in storybook form. It’s been since then, and after publishing a review of Faulks’s book on this WordPress blog, that I had my Punter’s eye drawn to the play’s Duke of York Theatre run and its changing cast of three. And now that the production is touring, I’m in a good, informed, position to review it.
As a narrator, Bertie is one of the best in our lyrical history. On this occasion Bertie has a brainwave idea to act out recent sequential events in his own life’s mayhem for the audience to see. Jeeves, as always, helps to steer him through it; while Seppings is the more reluctant participator. The narration and the sequence, of course, trundles through at one hundred miles an hour and we are often unable to make neither ‘hide nor hair’ of what’s going on. And we care not.
Trouble is there are more than three people involved in Bertie’s story, and Bertie’s own narration duties requires the presence of his own good self in all scenes. So Jeeves also has to appear as other Wodehouse regulars, namely Sir Watkyn Bassett and daughter, Madeline, Stiffy Byng too, and the newt loving nerd Gussie Fink-Nottle; and sometimes he’s having to double up his characters in one scene!
And poor Seppings bites off more than he can chew, as his small stature means he is miscast as the towering Roderick Spode and he struggles with other stage props, he too has more than one role to play and stage shifting duties, which means he’s forgetful with putting on the lady wig for instance…and it is all that particular kind of bonkers really; the laughs just keep on coming.
Robert Webb (BBC TV, Channel 4) reprises his Bertie role, he has richness to his voice, yet his pitch is naturally unchanging and it works well in playing Wodehouse’s famous, protagonist character. Alongside Webb are two more reputable actors of theatre, TV /Film namely, Jason Thorpe and Christopher Ryan – Jeeves and Seppings respectively. Thorpe is an impressive stage actor and absorbs much of the attention, and Ryan demonstrates a real knack for expert comic timing. All three are excellently cast, and provide the necessary mix of energetic physicality, expressive acting skills and hugely impressive memory recalling of complex lines in this linguistic masterpiece.
Photography by Hugo Glendinning
Reviewer, Debra Hall attended press night showing of Perfect Nonsense at The Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Monday 09 March 2015. A repeat of this review also appears at Remotegoat.