Arts, OldVenue

Review: ‘Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense’ at the Norwich Theatre Royal

For the past week, Norwich Theatre Royal has hosted The Goodale Brothers’ Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense. The show, arriving for its Norwich stint direct from London’s West End, had clearly been eagerly anticipated by Tuesday’s opening night audience, and with good reason – the show received a Laurence Olivier Award for ‘Best New Comedy’ with its original cast of ­­­Matthew Macfadyen and Stephen Mangan. The timing of the performance is fairly prescient, with the film release of ‘The Riot Club’ returning the cultural conversation to the lifestyles of the reckless and entitled.

Jeeves and Wooster, written by P. G. Wodehouse, has seen its fair share of renaissances. Despite the show’s programme focusing on this being the first stage adaptation of the show, the characters are well known to the British public thanks to their television dramatisation at the hands of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. The show found its place in the hearts of its viewers through its humorous and caricatured take on the excessive and ludicrous social structure of the young English upper-class, a structure replicated through the set’s own, which impressively transforms itself throughout the performance. This is made into one of the show’s repeated gags, in James Lance’s Bertie Wooster continual astonishment at seeing the area around him change so fast (the joke is truly entertaining in its first appearance, and simply tiring by its twentieth or thirtieth use).

It’s hard to fault the show’s persistent effort to entertain (even the typical pre-performance disclaimer, requesting that mobile phones be switched off, is delivered in character). It is also hard not to enjoy certain Wodehouse turns of phrase that never seem to lose their charm, such as Wooster’s boast, describing his ventures out in “the metrop”, that “a lot of people have asked me who my tailor is”, to which John Gordon Sinclair’s Jeeves replies “Doubtless in order to avoid him.” It is these digressions that make one wish more of the play’s content focused on Wooster’s city life, rather than a farcical tale of a stolen silver cow creamer that takes the cast to the English countryside and back.

There’s a reason that cartoons are brief. When characters are only given stereotyped facades to work with, as is the case with this script and its fantastical plot, it’s a marvel that even they’re able to stay interested. The three-cast members put in fine performances, but they are performances of lines and scenes that ask very little both of them and the audience, meaning that the evening was indeed, as Bertie Wooster details while recounting his evening in the play’s final act, “a big night for dim figures”.


About Author

louischeslaw Louis Cheslaw once was the substitute on his school basketball team, until lack of skill derailed his career. Hoop dreams behind him, he now writes about arts, culture, and social media. See website (below) for more information and a video of him attempting to cover Bonnie Tyler.

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December 2021
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