Adapted from P. G. Wodehouse’s The Code of The Woosters, Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense is the perfectly frivolous antidote to long November nights and the melancholic morale left in fifth week’s wake. Actors who refuse to take themselves too seriously, a script which turns a phrase on a sixpence and playfully draws it out from behind your ear, and a refreshingly minimal set design upon which this farcical romp can twist, turn and charleston its way into your heart all combine to create a production you won’t want to miss.
The charming intimacy of LMH’s Art Deco Simpkins Lee Theatre provides the ideal setting for Joe Stephenson’s Bertram “Bertie” Wooster’s endearing, ambitious, and witty foray into the world of West End theatre as he sets out to recount the tale of a weekend at Totleigh Towers ‘Tout seul…or as the French say, “All on my own.”’. Thankfully for one and all, however, the ever-faithful Jeeves is not one to let his gentleman fail and soon steps in, scenery and all, to help Bertie stage a raucous tale of crumpets, cow-creamers, and comedy gold. Seppings, Bertie’s Aunt’s butler, finds himself swiftly roped in by Jeeves and, played by Adam Diaper and Johnny Wiles respectively, the duo bring to life more than ten characters with energy, brilliance, and a resourcefulness that even Jeeves himself would envy.
It is nonsensical in the greatest and most gracious sense of the word
Indeed, much of the play’s wit rests on their ability to embody and voice a wonderfully vast range of characters – whilst never quite losing touch with their true ‘butler’ selves. Accentuated by the intimacy that the Simpkins Lee provides, and the minimalist set, the acting trio establish a wonderful “wink-wink nudge-nudge” relationship with the audience as Bertie Wooster gleefully insists on smashing the fourth wall to smithereens. Meanwhile Jeeves and Seppings dive back-and forth under beds and behind curtains to the audience’s delight as they sustain Bertie through his haphazard and hilarious narrative. There is no doubt that a cast so small runs the great risk of fatiguing either themselves or their audience but at no point did this prove true. Stephenson’s nonchalant charm carried the play through a host of potentially tedious scene and costume changes effortlessly.
In keeping with Bertie’s laissez-faire approach to staging a West End play, sound and lighting is kept somewhat minimal in Perfect Nonsense. But when they are used it adds much to the hilarity of the play, underscoring the slapstick superbly and providing further scope for comedic effect in the trio’s intelligent and well-executed moments of physical theatre. Fans of Fry & Laurie’s portrayal Jeeves and Wooster will undoubtedly appreciate Bertie’s penchant for the dance here also as the protagonist joyfully taps his way through occasional moments of charleston.
Perfect Nonsense is undoubtedly just that – nonsense – but it is nonsensical in the greatest and most gracious sense of the word, and it is certainly the most perfect form of comedic escapism should you be gasping for air at this point in the term. Stephenson, Wiles, and Diaper had their audience crying with laughter from start to finish in a wonderful whirlwind of heart-warming comedy that skilfully recreates and refreshes Wodehouse’s enduring characters and does justice to a witty and intelligent script.