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An afternoon of utter silliness

This week, Malvern Theatres has been showing Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense. I hadn’t originally intended to go – I have an absolute aversion to P.G. Wodehouse; can’t stand the silly-ass-about-town, thick-as-a-brick Bertie Wooster; and am totally unsympathetic to the parasitic lives of the upper-crust as portrayed in the novels, which I refuse on principle to read. However, when my sister and her husband were here a few weekends ago, they told me that they’d seen the production in London and had thoroughly enjoyed it. They convinced me to give it a go, though I did make sure I bought a cheaper seat half-way back in the auditorium, so I wouldn’t have wasted too much money if it turned out to be as cringe-worthy as I feared.

As the usher was showing me to my seat for the Saturday matinee, I said that I hoped that I was in for an afternoon of utter silliness. She laughed and said that it was certainly that – she’d seen it on Tuesday and had had a great time, so when she was asked to do another shift on Saturday, she was very happy to sit through it again. She said that she too hated Wodehouse, but that the play was a lot of fun to watch even if you forgot all about the plot (which was, admittedly, extremely flimsy and far-fetched) and just sat back and enjoyed the acting and the comic timing. Which was pretty much the verdict that my sister had pronounced too.

There were just three actors – Wooster (Robert Webb) was on stage the whole time, recounting and re-enacting a recent country house weekend that he had attended. Two other actors played all of the other parts – Jeeves (of course), two other butlers, three women (including one of the formidable Aunts), a policeman, a seven-foot tall thug, a blustering magistrate, a vacuous fool who was a friend of Bertie’s, and probably others that I’ve forgotten. The comedy largely came from the precision timing, the lightning-fast changes of costume, and the inventive use of props. One scene I particularly enjoyed was when the blustering magistrate, in a tweed suit, was having an argument with his niece, who was wearing a lilac skirt and jacket. Since both characters were being played by the same actor, he was dressed half-and-half in each costume and had to keep turning backwards and forwards to play both parts. That was laugh out loud funny.

So I’m pleased to say that my sister was right. It was indeed an afternoon of utter silliness, but a lot of fun too. I’m by no means a convert to Wodehouse, and have no desire to read up on Aunt Dahlia, Gussie Fink-Nottle, Sir Watkins Bassett, or any other of the preposterous characters. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

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  1. Josina | 5 April 2015 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    So glad you enjoyed it.
    And pleased to have it in writing that I was right!

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