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Tower Theatre Company: Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense

Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense
Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense
Picture by Robert Piwko

There are repeated nods to PG Wodehouse’s style of writing and descriptions in Perfect Nonsense, which played in the West End not that long ago. That production was comparatively hammy – not that this one doesn’t play to the gallery, but in all the clunky scene changes (some clunkier than others) and the sharing of at least six characters between two actors (only Theo Leonard retains the same character throughout, Bertie Wooster), the play in those respects lends itself better to an Off West End run such as this.

There’s an almost Shakespearean approach in acknowledging the apparent limitations of the theatre to fully and accurately depict each and every scene in a narrative without reliance, to a greater or lesser extent, on the audience’s imagination. This was one of those shows that gradually grew on me as it went on. To begin with, I found it a tad too pretentious, even overacted, for my liking. But the relentless silliness steadily won me over. The second half is better than the first – it was pacier, and noticeably more physical.

Some decent costumes (Lynda Twidale, assisted by Eugene Reeder), particularly in a scene where Jeeves (William Baltyn) plays two characters at once – neither of them Jeeves (yep, it’s one of those comedies), add much to the proceedings. Say what you will about men playing female roles in this day and age: Michael Bettell (Seppings, and other characters not listed in the show’s programme) has a convincing falsetto.

The audience warmed to Wooster almost immediately; Leonard is consummately engaging in the lead role. Baltyn’s Jeeves occasionally rushed his delivery of lines, though I could not for the life of me deduce if this was merely a deliberate deference to his master. Some charmingly inventive uses of sound effects and props, sometimes quite deliberately absurd, other times surprising and impressive, are almost worth the price of a ticket to this production in their own right.

The piece as a whole seemed to progress a little slower than I would have expected, and I struggle to describe even the briskest of scenes as theatrical farce. I wonder if the play is too safe and conservative; though there are appropriately ludicrous scenarios for a comedy of this sort, it lacks the wordplay of a crude nature that the best of farces grapple with (so to speak) repeatedly. Then again, this approach does make the show family-friendly, and not for nothing did the West End run win the 2014 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy.

Things are kept light-hearted throughout, and the show constantly connects with the audience, mostly through directly addressing it. It’s all serviceably entertaining, though the style of humour won’t appeal to absolutely everyone. There’s a deeper conclusion to draw out too, about working together and accomplishing more as a team effort – that is, the sum is greater than its parts. But for the most part, it’s banter, banter, banter – and my mind never wavered away from the show at any point: always a good sign.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The Tower Theatre is proud to present, Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, an inventive evening of slightly bonkers, genial comedy. The plot has been taken from the novel, The Code of the Woosters by P.G Wodehouse, recognised as the writer of natural farce.

When a country house weekend takes a turn for the worse, Bertie Wooster is unwittingly called on to play matchmaker, but also to steal a silver cow creamer from Totleigh Towers. Naturally, the ever dependable Jeeves is there to prevent Bertie from making a fool of himself in front of a cast of Wodehouse’s finest characters.

Enjoy an evening of raucous comedy in the company of Gussie Fink-Nottle, Madeline Bassett, Sir Watkin Bassett, Dahlia Travers, Roderick Spode and Constable Oates.

Join the effervescent, aristocratic fool Bertie Wooster and his dutiful valet, Jeeves in this Olivier award-winning play. Catch one of only six performances, get your tickets today. The Saturday matinee will be captioned for deaf, deafened and the hard-of-hearing audience members.

The Tower Theatre Company Presents Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense
From the works of P.G Woodhouse by the Goodale Brothers
Directed by Roger Beaumont
Evenings at 7.30pm
Tuesday 6th Dec – Saturday 10th Dec
Matinée at 3.00pm
Saturday 10th December
The Tower Theatre performing at the Bridewell Theatre, off Fleet Street
The matinée performance on Saturday 10th December will be captioned
http://www.towertheatre.org.uk/

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