It’s Perfect Nonsense at the Marlowe as Jeeves and Wooster take centre stage

It’s Perfect Nonsense at the Marlowe as Jeeves and Wooster take centre stage

Robert Webb in Jeeves & Wooster In Perfect Nonsense

 

Emma Shelton, Newspaper Editor, reviews Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, starring Jason Thorpe and Robert Webb at the Marlowe

The aristocratic fool, yet loveable Bertie Wooster has a story to tell. Joined by his humble but comparably wiser valet Jeeves, and Seppings (Christopher Ryan), he decides that the best way to tell it is to stage it. The audience is invited in to their ‘play’ which unfolds like a dress rehearsal. We are continuously reminded that the story is a construction as much as the staging of it; the mechanisms of the set are brought to the forefront and the various set changes are also the actors’ duty.

It’s a play that plays with our imagination, forcing us to see past the flaws in the ‘play’. Much of the comedy comes from Wooster’s inability to pretend that he is really living his story – an inability to act essentially. He continuously refers to the problems encountered with the staging of his narrative, the building of his set and the cross dressing, stating that Jeeves’ resemblance to Madeline Bassett is ‘uncanny’, drawing more attention to the fact that Jeeves is simply wearing a lamp shade and a curtain to resemble a woman. “Perhaps if we stopped drawing attention to the narrative devices, this narration would be easier”, Jeeves suggests, when in fact, this self-referentiality is what makes the narration increasingly intriguing and comic for the audience. The play does not remain rooted in one genre but by mixing them and switching from one form to another, experimenting with cinematic slow motion effects or Wooster juggling the role of Wooster and narrator, a fictional device usually excluded in the process of adapting a book to the stage, the audience is kept permanently on their toes.

Raucous laughter echoed in the theatre as the play dissolves into madness and the various narrative threads become entangled and prove impossible to act simultaneously by merely three actors, yet they pull it off. Or perhaps one should say that the performances are carried out by merely two actors, as Wooster becomes so engrossed with his own story, and content with his personal performance, that he is oblivious to how physically demanding his narration becomes for Jeeves and Seppings as they run through characters, sets, props, costumes and sex changes. The kerfuffle that ensues is clever, ingenious and highly entertaining, yet the comedy produced from the slapstick humour does eventually wear off. Although the play is rife with British sarcasm and puns, unfortunately it adopts a pantomime quality which becomes, at times, a little overbearing and tiresome, and loses some of P.G Wodehouse’s original sophistication and finesse.

The highlight of the evening was the finale. As the three actors come on to bow, they launch into a lively and light-hearted Charleston, still in character; a little unexpected but incredibly fun to watch– the ever-serious and sombre Jeeves steals the show.

Despite minor drawbacks and distractions, to end the show with a dance can only make you leave the theatre with a smile on your face. A highly enjoyable evening, ideal to take your mind of impending deadlines and work.

Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense is showing at the Marlowe until 21 March 2015. Find out more here

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