Come On, Jeeves

Thu 6th – Sat 8th November 2014

reviews

Ben Rodman

at 01:21 on 7th Nov 2014

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Even after a brief jittery start and several inaudible lines, the infectious energy of the cast, coupled with some outstanding performances, produced a play that will be leaving me with many indelible memories of both verbal and physical comic excellence.

As the iconic Bertie Wooster is at a school that teaches the upper classes to ‘fend for themselves’, there is a considerable lack of a bumbling oaf for Jeeves to manage. However, this gap is amply filled by Lord Bill Towcester, a man on the run after losing three thousand pounds whilst posing as a ‘Silver Ring Bookie.’ In order to pay off his debt to an irate Captain Biggar, Bill must sell Towcester Abbey to a spiritualistic ‘American.’ What follows is the classic Wodehousian farce of mixed social obligations, botched marriages and a subtle smattering of lies, naturally culminating with such verve that both audience and actors get carried along by the heady yet nuanced script.

The set was adequate for its purpose, sporting a judicious use of abandoned family portraits, ruche armchairs and hidden whiskey tumblers that established the environment of an estate in decline. Yet the placement of the sofa directly centre stage forced actors to squeeze round each other, and generally obstructed any performers speaking upstage.

The cast however, were clearly unperturbed, with exceptional standout performances such as Rory Carmoyle, played by the Hugh Laurie-esque Andrew Shires, who had the audience audibly tittering in anticipation of his next line. It was after Andrew brought in the first few laughs that the cast started loosening up and feeding off the mirth of the viewers. As the play continued, further impeccably devised characters were introduced, with both Mrs Spottsworth and Captain Biggar, respectively played by Savy Des-Etages and John Halstead, actively stealing every scene they featured in and forever preventing me from pronouncing yoga properly again (You will have to see the play to understand). Jeeves, generally the centre piece of the P.G. Wodehouse plays in which he features, was marginalised by the other exuberant characters of the Captain and Rory. This however, is not due to the precise enunciation and mincing actions of Jake Goldman, who fully capitalised on both big punchlines and the idiosyncratic verbosity iconic to Jeeves.

Despite strong performances from most of the cast, there were some areas that were distinctly lacking. Hamish Inglis’s performance as Bill Towcester was often incomprehensible, with lines spoken too fast or spoken directly towards the ground. I felt that there was a distinct lack of whimsical intonation that would make the bumbling yet clueless romantic Bill appear a little more distinctive and a little less like some generic upper-class toff. Yet Hamish's sheer feverish energy gave him a remarkable aptitude during moments of slapstick. I also found similar issues with the character of Monica Carmoyle, played by Charlotte Warmington, with some lines spoken inaudibly quietly. It was only towards the end of the play that Charlotte’s capacity for disapproving looks towards her husband Rory was realised.

Special mention must go to the underused Ollie Wright as the loud, but perpetually ignored Chief Constable Blagden, and Hellen Fitzmaurice’s quiet and shifty Ellen who pottered about the stage during intervals stealing the whiskey.

Overall, although there were a few small errors, the cast worked well together to produce a highly amusing and entertaining glimpse into the world of P.G. Wodehouse, and it’s one that I’m very willing to see again.

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