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Wodehouse in Wonderland at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford

The well-known actor Robert Daws has worked with writer William Humble many times and in 2017 asked him if he would be interested in writing a one-man play about P G Wodehouse, “Maybe with some songs”. The result is Wodehouse in Wonderland.

Wodehouse in Wonderland at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre GuildfordI am very familiar with PG Wodehouse (known as Plum to his family and friends) mainly from film and television adaptations of his books. I love his beautifully written quintessentially English writing. Tonight, I found out so much more about him.

The set represents Wodehouse’s home in Long Island, near New York. We look beyond the room to the beautiful garden beyond. Clever lighting effects show the day gradually changing from day to night. Daws is the only performer, but he carries on conversations with his wife upstairs, his Pekinese dogs out in the garden, his would-be biographer on the phone and with his beloved stepdaughter Leonora.

PG Wodehouse was born here, in Guildford. He started writing at the age of five; before that he “just loafed”! He loved his school years at Dulwich College and his time there influenced the rest of his life. I had thought the inclusion of songs in this play was somewhat random and was amazed to discover that Wodehouse also wrote plays and contributed lyrics to 25 musicals including the lyrics for ‘You’re the Top” for the British version of “Anything Goes. At one point, Wodehouse had five shows running simultaneously on Broadway. He referred to his novels as “musical comedies without music”.

I also discovered the rather darker side of P G Wodehouse’s life; at the start of the second world war, Wodehouse and his wife were living in France. When the Nazis occupied the country, Wodehouse was sent to Berlin for internment. While he was there, he was persuaded to make a series of broadcasts entitled “How to be an Internee without previous training”. These broadcasts were very mild and humorous, but when the Germans then broadcast them to Britain, they were received badly, and he was treated like a traitor. After the war, the Wodehouses lived in exile in America.

This is a very interesting and informative play beautifully written and performed. Although some of the subject matter is serious, it is a light-hearted and very enjoyable production. An absolute must for anyone who enjoys Wodehouse or musical theatre.

4 stars

Review by Sally Knipe

P. G. Wodehouse, or Plum as he’s known to his near and dear, is trying to write the latest instalment of Jeeves and Wooster. However, a would-be biographer, his wife, his daughter, and even his two Pekingese have other ideas!

Join the famous writer for marvellous tales and spectacular tunes! Hear stories of first meeting Jeeves, an addiction to soap operas, and why he wrote books that were ‘like musical comedies without music’. Listen to songs composed by Broadway legends with lyrics written by himself and be entertained with characters such as Lord Emsworth, Gussie Fink-Nottle and the squashily romantic Madeline Bassett.

Wodehouse in Wonderland
2 FEB 2023 – 4 FEB 2023

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