REVIEW: Jeeves, Wooster and company are perfectly portrayed in clever stage adaptation
Although dressed up as Perfect Nonsense, an outing of British comedy duo Jeeves and Wooster at the Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds, was a brilliantly written and executed display.
Following the events of a particular evening for P G Wodehouse’s hapless fop, Bertie Wooster (Matthew Carter), and his long-suffering butler Jeeves (Joseph Chance), the play lives up to its West End billing.
The majority of the action takes place at Totleigh Towers, where Bertie is called to play matchmaker for Gussie Fink-Nottle and Madeline Bassett while simultaneously employed by his aunt Dahlia Travers to steal a silver cow creamer from under Sir Watkin Bassett’s nose.
One of the play’s stand-out features is its clever metafictionality - it follows the story as told by Bertie, with Jeeves and his aunt’s butler Stebbings (Robert Goodale) creating the cast of characters around him including the nervously excitable Gussie, the flirtatious Madeline, forthright Stephanie Byng and Roderick Spode, who becomes comically taller on a series of elaborate frames with each appearance and requires numerous pushes back out of doorways.
Jeeves and Stebbings even manage the scenery themselves, dragging walls, a fireplace, a shop counter, a bed and even a bathtub from the wings to recreate the evening’s events for Bertie’s narrative.
Chance, Carter and Goodale command the stage wonderfully together, with lightening-fast but seemingly effortless costume and personality changes, bringing real life to the characters and depth to their relationships.
One particular scene flags up the difficulties of such a small cast, when Jeeves is forced to reenact a conversation between Stephanie Byng and Sir Watkin Bassett while playing both characters.
A well constructed costume, half tweed suit and half lavender gown, is doned and the ensuing argument is perfectly paced.
A thorough understanding of Wodehouse’s classic cast has led to perfect casting, with a clever and original stage adaptation which further draws out the dependent relationship between Wooster and Jeeves - to fantastic comic effect.