I genuinely didn’t know what to expect from tonight’s performance at The Theatre. My knowledge of PG Wodehouse begins and ends with distant memories of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie’s TV adaptation of Jeeves & Wooster back in the early 1990s, and I was too young to appreciate the genius of Wodehouse’s writing back then. But a quick flick through the beautiful glossy and informative programme (a steal at £3!) assured me that I was in good company in my ignorance of the source material – all three actors claim to have known little about the author prior to performing in this play.
The opening night of this 5-month, 50-venue tour was buzzing for a cold Wednesday evening in the Cotswolds. The intimate venue lends itself to the chaos of the show, adapted from the works of Wodehouse by the Goodale Brothers nearly 30 years ago. Like a higgledy-piggledy old mansion of delights, the set is as adaptable as the three-man cast. Bertie Wooster sets the scene immediately as he wanders on-stage with script in hand, seemingly surprised that there’s an audience before him already. The loveable toff is charming in his innocent buffoonery, and Matthew Cavendish gets the performance pitch perfect. Initially alone on stage, he informs the auditorium that he has decided to put on a one-man show to tell of his recent experiences concerning ridiculously-named friends and acquaintances at
With clarity of sound effects throughout – a door opening and shutting here, the opening of a sash window there – the inner workings of a theatre production are there for all to see, performed by all three characters onstage. One particular set piece that will remain with me for a long time is also Cavendish’s favourite use of the foley in the show – Seppings get rather involved “with a whole host of ludicrously elaborate sound effects” involving a railway crossing and a train, not to mention the genius of Jeeves’ wired scarf dancing in the breeze as he travels besides Bertie in his open-top car.
This production is the perfect tonic to the nonsense going on around us in the world. A couple of hours escaping into the chaotic, farcical world of Bertie Wooster as he trips from one misadventure to the next is just what the doctor ordered, resulting in a theatre bursting with genuine belly laughs as the audience struggles to keep up with the madness. An absolute joy!