There are quite a few productions out there that, quite rightly, have some sort of message or important point to get across, bringing to the audience’s attention some pertinent topic such as crimes against the person, discrimination in the workplace, or a significant historical and/or political event. And then there are plays like Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, which are best appreciated by sitting back and letting it wash over you. If there really must be a deeper meaning to be found in the various antics, it’s that the knowledge and ingenuity of an assistant should never be underestimated. Bertie (Peter Hill) doesn’t, as far as I could deduce, ever mistreat his butler Jeeves (Scott Tilley) – that would put too much sourness into what is, essentially, silliness and ridiculousness of the highest order.
I was reminded recently of the need to appreciate having a good time when I came across a review of the motion picture Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, which wasn’t, in the end, so much a review as a response to various other reviews that criticised the movie for an apparent shallow narrative and supposed lack of artistic merit. If we cannot ever enjoy ourselves, are we really living life to the full?
This, then, is the kind of show that should be enjoyed for what it is – a mildly amusing story, which, though not entirely convincing (or even coherent – it’s called Perfect Nonsense for a reason) is decent, clean, light entertainment. There really should be a more of this sort of production: a lot of contemporary comedy, at least in my experience, has too much of what I call ‘eff, cee and effing cee’, or otherwise relies on putdowns for laughs, even in the era of #TimesUp and #MeToo. How interesting then, that the harmless fun of the world of PG Wodehouse (1881-1975) continues to entertain people today.
While Hall’s Bertie Wooster retains his own character throughout, it is left to Seppings (John Mortley) and Jeeves to play not only themselves, but a range of other characters too numerous to bother attempting to list. The play, therefore, highlights the limitations of the stage and of limited casting, and a running gag where a fourth character is required to make a scene work is dealt with in a variety of ways during the performance. For those who have seen the show before, either in the West End and/or in one of the various other productions since that 2013-14 run at the Duke of York’s Theatre: yes, a particular costume makes an appearance in the second half, allowing a certain somebody to play two characters at once.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have been impressed with a show that interrupted itself in the first half to say that there’s a boring bit just now because of a lengthy costume change, only to do so again in the second half. But here, that is part of the show’s appeal, as is Seppings, of average height, going to ever-increasing lengths (in more ways than one) to portray the towering Roderick Spode. A set reveal elicited audible gasps (in a good way) from the audience at the performance I attended, and though a little tightening wouldn’t hurt in terms of pace and comic timing, this is, all things considered, a witty script delivered by a committed and hard-working cast.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense
By David Goodale & Robert Goodale
What Ho! A delightfully silly evening with Jeeves and Wooster!
Sat 15 Sep 2018 to Fri 21 Sep 2018
Hampton Hill Theatre: Main Auditorium
You are cordially invited to an evening with B.W. Wooster, Esq. He will entertain you with the spiffing tale of how he reconciled the affections of Madeline Bassett and Gussie Fink-Nottle, whilst avoiding amateur dictator Sir Roderick Spode and trying to steal a silver cow creamer!
Fortunately, Bertie’s valet Jeeves, and Aunt Dahlia’s butler Seppings, are on hand to ensure that the entertainment goes smoothly…
Join them for an evening of laughter, silliness and theatrical invention!
An amateur production by arrangement with Nick Hern Books Ltd
Bertie – Peter Hill
Jeeves – Scott Tilley
Seppings – John Mortley
Production Team & Crew:
Director – Matt Beresford
Production Manager – Laurie Coombs
Designer – Fiona Auty
Lighting Designer – Gary Stevenson
Sound Designer – Harry Jacobs
Stage Manager – Jack Tidball
Assistant Stage Manager and Props – Alice Metcalf
Assistant Stage Manager – Tatanya Lowed-Spence
Costume Designer – Maggie Revis
Photography – Jojo Leppink
Rehearsal Prompt – Alice Fordham
BAT Link – Mike Elgey
Artistic Link – Andy Smith