Jeeves and Wooster

Posted by Laurence Green

Laurence Green reviews the stage adaptation of Jeeves novel - Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense at Duke of York’s Theatre.

Jeeves & WoosterIt is hard to believe that no theatrical version of Jeeves novel has ever been mounted on the London stage so the new adaptations by brothers Robert and David Giidale entitles Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense (Duke of York’s Theatre) seems long overdue.

The pretext of the show, skilfully adapted from P.G. Wodehouse’s 1938 work The Code of the Wooster is that Bertie has hired a West End theatre to stage a play about his recent harrowing experiences at Totleigh Towers, to which he was sent by his Aunt Dahlia to steal an antique silver cow-creamer and was also forced to play matchmaker between his friend Gussie Fink-Nottle and Madeline Basspett.

At the last minute Bertie realises that it is going to be near impossible playing all the characters so Jeeves is summoned to play himself and other supporting roles, together with Aunt Dahlia’s butler Steppings. Jeeves, who urges Bertie to refrain from drawing attention to the narrative devices, amuses him by furnishing the back stage with some truly ingenious, set designs (full credit to Alice Power) that become ever more lavish and sonvicing as the show progresses and this apparently makeshift production creates a delightful sense of engagement between the actors and the audience. Indeed there are lots of clear theatrical tricks built around the improvised scenery, rapid costume changes and sound effects provided by Steppings.

Director Sean Foley is adept at farce and although this is an unapologetically frivolous show which admittedly loses a bit of momentum in the second act, it is also well written and often deliriously funny. In one of my favourite and most hilarious scenes Jeeves plays both a man and a woman in a comic coup of great versatility and panache.

With his toothy grin and astonishing laugh, Stephen Mangan proves the perfect Wooster, displaying exactly the right mixture of charm, idiocy and panic. In a particularly memorable scene we see him playing with a rubber duck in a foaming bathtub lost in his own world of carefree bliss. Matthew Macfadyen is equally impressive as his composed, dutiful, valet Jeeves and shines in a host of other parts too including getting up in drag to play Madeline Bassett, Bertie’s ghastly former fiancée. A further word of praise must go to Mark Hadfield who steals several scenes playing not only Steppings but also the vile Roderick Spode, leader of the fascist British Black – Shorts, and although small in stature, is described by Wodehouse as being about seven feet tall, a running visual gay that never stops being amusing.

Wodehouse fans may feel that too many liberties have been taken with the master but for me this is one of the funniest and most entertaining shows on the West End stage at the moment.

By Jeeves I think this is going to be a winner!


Jeeves & Wooster

Runs until March 8, 2014

Box office 0844 871 3051

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