Last Updated on 9th December 2014
Jeeves and Wooster
October 16 2013
There was a time when the West End was renown the world over for glittering productions of hilarious comedies and audiences flocked in droves to see them. On the strength of tonight’s preview of Sean Foley’s production of Robert and David Goodale’s adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, when this production arrives in the West End, there will, at least in one theatre, be a glimpse into those remarkable times.
For this is a truly delicious evening at the theatre in every respect.
The script is pitch-perfect, a genius confection which plays to the strengths both of Wodehouse’s preposterous characters and the talents of the cast. It is laugh-out-loud funny regularly and at other times blossoms with the joy of infectious smiles.
Foley has achieved something quite miraculous.
The best trick lies in the theatricality that is lent to the tale by the clever device of Jeeves playing the ultimate stage manager for Wooster’s tall tale. The set is manufactured before your eyes, as are the costumes and props; there is a knowing enjoyment in the various surprises that lie along the road to the resolution of the narrative. Everything about the way the text is produced and performed evokes glee.
There are three in the cast and I doubt that any of them has ever been better.
Stephen Mangan is perfection as the silly, posh duffer Wooster; his laugh, his beaming face, his accent, his fevered alarm, his profound stupidity – every line is delivered seamlessly and to marvellous effect. And his physical work, his delightful slapstick and general schtick, is flawless. It will be a long time before I forget the sight of him in a bubble bath demonstrating the airborne propensity of a rubber duckie forced underwater.
Matthew MacFadyen is faultless as the pristine, precious, precise and prescient valet, Jeeves. It is remarkable to see MacFadyen so completely immersed in farce and every character he plays, and there are four, is beautifully drawn and pitched with an incandescent precision that is both startling and sublime. Seeing him, with a lampshade and a torn curtain, evoke the being of a sultry seductive gal is one of those once-in-lifetime theatrical experiences of immaculate joy.
But not content with that, MacFadyen tops himself in the play’s most extraordinary sequence when, with one half of him dressed as the cantankerous irascible old Magistrate and the other half of him dressed as the spirited niece of said magistrate, MacFadyen conducts a long scene with himself. It is breathlessly funny – a true tour de force worth the entire evening.
All of the other parts are played exceptionally well by Mark Hadfield who was so wrong as the Baker in Into The Woods but here never puts a foot or word wrong. He nails every laugh exactly as he should.
Together, this trio of fine comic performers are the cake, jelly and custard of the most exacting and perfectly timed comic trifle likely to be seen on the West End for some time.
Alice Power’s sets and costumes are a joy and the final, wonderful dance sequence, courtesy of Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, is an inspired way to demonstrate, in an entirely different way, all of the comic genius at work here.
This is one time a play lives up to its name. It’s undeniable nonsense, but Perfect in every way.
Book tickets to Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense