Theatre Review - Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, Theatre by the Lake
PUBLISHED: 09:49 29 May 2018
Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake (TBTL) has opened its new summer season of plays with a cracking farce which I predict may well be the smash hit of the year.
The classic books by P.G. Wodehouse still remain firm favourites among the older generation but the slapstick buffoonery of a dim-witted bachelor gentleman and his loyal valet who always saves the day is somewhat less relevant to those under 40 these days. Not everything in Wodehouse’s works is considered ‘tasteful’ any longer and the jokes don’t quite have a universal appeal.
Nevertheless, for those who ‘get it’, the stories are delightful and while they may not lead to great guffaws ‘out loud’, the gentle humour does keep the reader smiling throughout. So…Jeeves & Wooster as a play? Could it work?
My first clue was on realising this was just a three-man piece which would mean a lot of swapping of roles between the actors. I was taken back to TBTL’s The 39 Steps from a few years ago - a similar role-swapping farce - which was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and I saw that there was potential for great fun again. I was not disappointed.
Beginning from the off with that afore-mentioned gentle humour, the play gathered pace until, before we knew it, the audience was howling. The Goodale Brothers who created this production from the stories did their job well: interaction with the audience, use of ordinary items as props and plenty of gags about acting itself allowed the plot to be fleshed out and the actors’ comic abilities to shine.
All three men were superb in their roles. Thomas Richardson’s facial expressions made for a perfect Wooster; Theo Fraser Steele was convincing as Jeeves but brought the house down when later he played two other roles simultaneously. It was James Duke though who was the big surprise. Appearing first in his main role as the butler Seppings, I was quite certain he was going to be rather weak. I could not have been more wrong. There were times - many times - when this man made my sides hurt from laughing so much. He was perfect.
I don’t know if Jeeves & Wooster will overtake the much-loved 39 Steps this season but I do know that just like that previous period farce, this current production will delight every audience and some of us are surely going to be seeing it again and again with our friends. Go see it!
‘Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense’ runs until Sat 27 October. For more information on the production visit theatrebythelake.com
To book, call Box Office on 017687 74411.