★★★★ | Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense
Jeeves and Wooster played by Jason Thorpe and Robert Webb respectively, bring to The Birmingham Rep a delightful and hilarious performance of Perfect Nonsense with actor Christopher Ryan. There is an initial gag before the curtains go up by a speaker announcing that phones should be switched off, for it might interrupt the first performance of Mr Wooster and he might feel nervous. Of course, merriment ensued.
Perfect Nonsense tells a story of Wooster and his butler Jeeves who are putting on a play, but it is Wooster’s debut so he starts the show with running through his part and calming himself by saying: ‘How hard can acting be?’ Jeeves had cleverly set everything up so Wooster pretty much walks on to the intricate set that he has just been describing, as it is rolled on, on wheels, and displayed behind him as he turns around. It was so efficient that it surprises Wooster every time.
Perfect Nonsense, directed by Olivier Award winner Sean Foley, is currently touring the UK, and it is peppered with comedy, suspense, and a little drama, especially when Wooster is blackmailed by half the characters, who all want the silver cow creamer.
Robert, Jason and Christopher combined made the show extra special, as each contributed to the amusement by exaggerating facial expressions that provided the effect they wanted: to bring the house down with laughter.
Robert Webb, whose credits are endless, but one would immediately recognise him as Jeremy Usborne from the Peep Show, had an innate ability of moving his body to suit the action and it made the transition between scenes even funnier. He even simulated Michael Jackson’s famous moonwalk to travel between scenes. Webb reprised the role like a duck to water and carried the show with relentless energy and flair.
Jason Thorpe, whose theatre credits include: From Morning to Midnight, His Dark Materials and What the Butler Saw, lends his ingenious acting ability and comedic timing to Jeeves, Wooster’s butler. He also convincingly multi-part plays other roles in the show, and to each one he gives a special touch that supports Wooster’s storytelling. His characterisation of Stiffy was sublime.
Christopher Ryan most famous for playing Mike in 1982-1984 TV series: Young Ones, portrays the character of Seppings who plays all other roles with an enthusiasm and persistence that would put anyone my age to shame. Christopher dominates the stage with his flair of movement with one second portraying Wooster’s aunty Dahlia and in the next Roderick Spode who is described as being 6ft 9in when Ryan is nowhere near that height at all.
The set was a masterpiece of the steady yet unpredictable design of Alice Power whose recent design credits include: The Walworth Farce; and A Mad World My Masters by Thomas Middleton. Power designed a set that was so effortlessly mutable, that it became part of the comedy, as the sets were pushed on and pictures were rolled up and down a photo frame via a rotating handle.