The Goodale Brothers (Robert and David) have used P.G. Wodehouse’s 1938 novel The Code of the Woosters as the source material for their Olivier Award-winning comedy Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense making its home at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow this week.
As popular as the notorious duo are there are inherent problems in adapting the antics of Wodehouse’s and arguably the English language’s, most famous upper-class twit and his even more famous valet for the stage; Wodehouse fans can not only quote almost verbatim the best of the author’s witty words but more worryingly have very fixed ideas on how their heroes should be played. But fans need not worry, indeed they will recognise many of the author’s most famous bon mots reproduced here word for word and the regard in which the Goodale Brothers hold their source material, is evident in this affectionate production.
The premise is: Bertie is staging a West End show based upon a flimsy anecdote about Aunt Dahlia, an antique cow creamer and a night at buddy Gussy Fink-Nottle’s Totleigh Towers. Bertie’s only contribution to the proceedings is to reproduce his own dialogue, and it’s left to the inimitable Jeeves and man-servant Seppings to do the rest.
Instead of trying to reproduce the feel of a Wodehouse novel, the writers have cleverly opted to stage an out and out farce. Clever, not least for the fact that it capitalises on the British public’s renewed appetite for the genre; evidenced by the recent success of Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong and the National Theatre’s world-wide smash One Man Two Guv’nors.
Director Sean Foley, who successfully brought to life onstage the beloved Ealing Comedy The Ladykillers, does a fine job here. What’s most astonishing is that Foley has managed to create all this merry mayhem with just three actors. John Gordon Sinclair, at first assessment, not a natural choice for Jeeves, manages to convey as much with the raise of a single eye-brow as many manage with their whole bodies, indeed he is a revelation throughout, his comic timing and versatility in portraying an eye-watering number of characters (including hysterical turns as giggling girlies Madeline Bassett and Stiffy Byng).
Familiar TV face James Lance, billed to play Wooster was replaced by cover Joel Sams for this performance. Sams doesn’t disappoint, bringing the perfect level of youthful exhuberance to the role, he is a natural and instantly loveable Bertie. The central duo are ably supported by writer Robert Goodale as the decrepit Seppings, though there’s more than a hint of One Man Two Guvnor’s doddery waiter Alfie in the portrayal.
The set (cleverly designed by Alice Power) is almost a character in itself and appears before your very eyes thanks to the quick thinking and superior carpentry skills of good old Jeeves. There’s a delightful low-tech joke with the revolve to enjoy too.
This is a delightful reminder of how funny good old Jeeves and Wooster can be – it may be time to dust of the novels for a well-deserved re-visit over the cold winter months.
Runs until 29 November 2014 then touring