Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, Derby Playhouse

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The eponymous protagonists are much loved characters in the canon of English literature. Their comic escapades have delighted generations. This comedy, based on the 1938 novel by P.G, Woodhouse, The Code of the Woosters, was created by David and Robert Goodale and made its world premiere at the Richmond Theatre in October 2013.

Perfect Nonsense won the 2014 Laurence Olivier Award, for Best New Comedy, and it is easy to see why. Joseph Chance (Jeeves) Mathew Carter ( Bertie Wooster) and Robert Goodale (Seppings) star in a “play within a play” format of the “Noises Off” variety. Bertie Wooster decides to stage a one-man show about his experiences at Totleigh Towers. However as the opening night approaches, all is not well, forcing him to enlist the services of Jeeves and another valet, Seppings, the latter two having to assume multiple characters. Cue mayhem.
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Not only is this production a delight to watch, it is also quite obviously a delight to play in. Seppings is batty as Aunt Dahlia and obnoxious as Roderick Spode, while jeeves has to assume a male and female role simultaneously. Chance’s portrayal of Wooster will delight loyal Woodhouse fans, aloof, detached, other worldly, and totally oblivious to the world around him.

Goodale is the pivot as Seppings, tour director, and co-author. The production is hugely fortunate to have his services to pace and co-ordinate an intricate show in which scene changes, the scenery, props and costume are an integral part of the proceedings, with many “sight gags” littering the evening. Alice Powers, set designer, has succeeded in producing a versatile, credible and funny set which is worked to the maximum.

A healthy first night audience started off the evening with smiles and giggles, and ended it with guffaws and peals of laughter, many of which halted the show as set pieces were warmly acknowledged. Rarely have I seen such a funny comedy combined with spades of energy and enthusiasm by a cast of three, who richly deserved their numerous curtain calls, enlivened by a curtain call dance.

Bertie Wooster would have described the evening as a rather splendid, ripping jape. My partner Jane described it as “Bloody brilliant”. Go and experience the fun and laughter for yourself , running until Saturday 21st November.

This review first appeared in Behind the Arras, abridged, where a comprehensive collection of reviews from the best of Midlands theatre, from a range of reviewers, is available.

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