What ho! Gosh, there’s jolly fun to be had at the theatre these days. Had a simply spiffing time at The Duke Of York’s this week seeing a new comedy featuring a pair of coves that had me in oodles of laughter.
It was Perfect Nonsense of course but the audience laughed like drains. I can’t think of a better night’s entertainment.
It seems impossible to imagine but the hilarious antics of Bertie Wooster and his man, Jeeves, have never made it into the West End – until now. Writer PG Wodehouse would have been delighted that his creations have finally won the recognition they deserve.
His stories, and there are shelves of them, have been notoriously hard to lift off the page. Making the leap to stage or screen has, on the whole, been disappointing (the recent Blandings series on Sunday afternoon BBCTV is a case in point).
But now, everything has come together, in a show that is a hoot to watch from beginning to end. It’s blessed with a near perfect cast and the pedigree of a top-hole production team.
Is casting the key? Stephen Mangan, as Wooster, is sublime. He’s charismatic from the outset, with an ear-to-ear beam that displays his pearly whites to perfection. You can’t help falling for his charm. Wooster/Mangan is just so bally endearing. The chap is brimming with innocence and whimsy, the eternal optimist who seems to always land on his feet no matter what fix he’s in.
He’s joined in this escapade by Matthew Macfadyen who has never struck me as having any sort of funny bone judging from a biography that leans heavily towards classical and heavyweight drama. How wrong I was.
He is the epitome of a gentleman’s gentleman with a beautifully paced performance that is shared by his acting partner, the Macfadyen Left Eyebrow, which should really have its own entry in the programme. It rises in incredulity at frequent intervals and obviously went to the same acting classes as Roger Moore’s Left Eyebrow. It deserves an Olivier.
Who’d have thought the star of Spooks, Wuthering Heights and Ripper Street, was imbued with a sense of humour? It’s rare to ever see him smile or be, in any way, animated in his previous roles. Here he lets caution to the wind and even dons a dress (nice legs, by the way). I hope this is a turning point for the actor. He really should show his comedic talents more often. Mr M, a solidly built, lofty 6ft 3ins, even dances (though I doubt whether he’d score more than a 3 on Strictly).
The leads are joined on stage by the versatile Mark Hadfield who plays a selection of potty characters that range from a decrepit old retainer and mad spinster to an evil villain affected by an imaginative growth spurt. He scene steals disgracefully and it’s all delightfully mad.
The comedy is in the capable hands of director Sean Foley who showed how adept he was at silliness with the inventive West End revival of The Ladykillers.
And it has been beautifully adapted by the talented writing duo of Robert and David Goodale who have perfectly captured the naivety and old fashioned gaiety of the prose.
Story? Well, the whole concept is rather super. Wooster was regaling the chaps down the Drones Club with a very tall tale when one of the crowd suggested he ought to take it on stage….
Jeeves and Wooster’s Perfect Nonsense runs until March 8. For tickets call the box office 0844 871 7615 or visit www.atgtickets.com/london