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Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense

by on 16 September 2018

Jollity, Japes and Jeeves

Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense

by David and Robert Goodale, based on PG Wodehouse

Teddington Theatre Club at the Hampton Hill Theatre until 21st September

Review by Didie Bucknall

That any theatrical group could even think of putting on a play requiring so much effort for only one week is astonishing, but as TTC has three strong actors able to play the parts, well, why not? The large amount of scenery and immaculately timed backstage activity required is why not. But what was produced can only be described as a tour de force. Such energy, such perfect timing! We were treated to a great evening of jollity and japes.

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On entering the foyer of the theatre the scene was immediately set with dance music and a display containing Bertie’s beautiful Art Deco drinks cabinet and his evening apparel, but by contrast, the scene on stage was at first disappointingly bare, with a dark curtains and one leather armchair. All that was about to change …

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Bertie, seated in the armchair, has decided to share his latest exploit with the audience. Of course his task was seemingly simple enough – to go to an antique dealer and cast doubts on the authenticity of a silver cow creamer so that his uncle could buy the object to add to his collection at a much reduced price. He is encouraged to do so by the threat that his aunt will exclude him from her dinner table, a severe deprivation as the aunt in question has, by devious means, engaged the talents of a first class chef. Of course, things do not go smoothly for Bertie, complications and intricate plots weave themselves around until Jeeves saves the day with some intimate knowledge gleaned from his men’s private club.

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Jeeves appears first with a blazing fireplace, the flames of which Bertie manipulates on strings with great delight. He then wheels on a large box which, when opened in several stages reveals a beautifully constructed reproduction of Bertie’s drawing room.

As the story unfolds, scene after scene of lovely settings are wheeled on and off. Bertie’s bedroom is unveiled with a bed under which there is an escape route for a character to disappear before rapidly re-entering the room under different a guise.

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Peter Hill, as an increasingly confused Bertie, narrates the story while Scott Tilley as an imperturbable Jeeves, an irascible JP and his winsome daughter, and the delightful John Mortley billed as playing the ancient butler Steppings, but appearing in multiple guises, are the only actors on stage. They say that comedy is more difficult to play than tragedy. All three give a masterly performance, their timings are spot on, their characterisation hilarious. Towards the end, when the pace is fast and furious wigs and clothes are flung on and off with increasing rapidity.

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In his female disguise, with delectable charm Scott Tilley strides about the stage on high heels as to the stiletto born, but when finally both father and daughter need to converse, he plays both rôles at once dressed half on one side and half on the other to hilarious effect.

John Mortley also has an animated conversation with himself in two separate rôles off stage, but on stage as a portly policeman, an antique dealer, Bertie’s aunt and a 6 ft 5 in tall fascist enforcer he excels.

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Bertie himself has many a quick costume change in the course of his narration, once he is even found in the bath gleefully playing with his rubber duck but, have no fears, all proprieties are observed. Bertie drives with Jeeves to the country paying scant attention to obstacles in the road and experiencing all types of weather conditions. He is as usual under threat of having some girl or other foisted upon him by relatives wishing to marry him off, a thing which is to be avoided at all costs and the costs become greater as the story unfolds.

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Back stage the timing had to be impeccable and it certainly was. The cast were on and off and turned around in very short order. Noises off were well coordinated. This was a well rehearsed play. Everyone knew their parts thoroughly whether on or off stage.
The director, Matt Beresford must be congratulated for his very clear-sighted and confident direction. The play could not have been staged without a very strong team backstage. Set design and build, costume, props, lighting, sound and backstage staff who knew their rôles thoroughly to make a seamless production run smoothly.

It was a very good evening and fun was had by all. As Bertie would have said: What ho, Jeeves. What ho indeed!

Didie Bucknall
September 2018

Photography by JoJo Leppink of Handwritten Photography

From → Drama, Reviews

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