What ho! PG Wodehouse’s famous duo, Bertie Wooster and his man Jeeves, have billeted themselves at Milton Keynes Theatre this week as part of their jolly tour around the UK.
And it’s spiffing fun. Actually it’s Perfect Nonsense, a wonderfully silly story written by brothers Robert and David Goodale and starring Wodehouse’s much-loved characters.
Nonsense is a highly original and eccentric comedy which opens with Robert Webb’s Bertie sitting on a fairly empty stage and deciding that he might like to have a go at this acting lark.
Over the next 90 or so minutes he regales the audience with a first hand account of his attempts to steal a silver cow creamer, escape marrying two women, save his friend’s bacon, avoid a henchman wanting to turn him to “jellay” and still make it back to Aunt Dahlia’s for tiffin.
The indomitable Jeeves aids and abets his master by knocking up props and scenery and, with another faithful retainer, Seppings, the pair play a variety of hilarious characters to move the story along.
It’s a tremendous lark from start to finish. Wodehouse fans will be delighted at the Goodale Bros’ take on a highly individual style of comedy and newcomers to the genre will be instantly hooked.
Webb makes a topping toff as the brainless and innocent Bertie. Bertie bumbles through life with champers in hand and a child-like smile on his face. Occasionally his infectious laughter results in him emitting a bellowing horsey snort.
He relies entirely on the subtle guidance of his gentleman’s gentleman who questions his taste in suits and the folly of some of his actions.
Amazingly there are only three men in the cast (actually, I lie. It’s pretty obvious that there are only three – that’s part of the fun).
Jason Thorpe as Jeeves and Christopher Ryan as the elderly Seppings have a high old time dashing in and out of the rudimentary set, swapping into costumes for an entire cast of eccentric coves ranging from the Hitler-style fascist Roderick Spode and JP Sir Watkyn Bassett to Aunt Dahlia and newt-loving chum Gussie Fink-Nottle.
Director Sean Foley keeps the story bowling along with madcap scenes, Heath-Robinson inventiveness, lots of laughs and the odd occasional silence (“There are a few boring bits,” declares Bertie during one such moment).
It’s a grand romp that will have you laughing like a drain. What ho!
Perfect Nonsense runs at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday.