Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, a theatrical entertainment by The Goodale Brothers, based on the PG Wodehouse novel, The Code of the Woosters, was a huge hit in the West End last year, buoyed up by star names such as Stephen Mangan and Matthew McFadyen.
Now the show comes to Buxton Opera House, devoid of celebrity clout, but with an energy and invention that carry the audience along on a tsunami of anarchic comedy.
The Goodales’ concept (not unlike that used by Alan Ayckbourn and Andrew Lloyd Webber in their Wodeshousian musical By Jeeves!) is that we are welcomed to the theatre by Bertie Wooster himself (played with silly-ass charm by Matthew Carter), who is preparing to enact his recent adventures at Totley Towers.
He enlists the help of indefatigable gentleman’s gentleman Jeeves (the versatile Joseph Chance) and his Aunt Dahlia’s butler Seppings (Robert Goodale) to manoeuvre the ever more complicated set, and to take the roles of all the other characters, including the stentorian Dahlia, the drippy Madeleine Bassett, hearty Stephanie Byng, magistrate Sir Watkin Bassett, newt loving Gussie Fink-Nottle and giant would be dictator Spode amongst them.
The emphasis is on the larger-than-life, reminiscent of one of Ernie Wise’s Plays What I Wrote, with quick changes and over-the-top characterisations propelling the action along.
The three actors work tirelessly, bringing to life a show full of theatrical invention (slow motion cow creamer dropping, flickering flames, a conversation between two characters played by the same man, Spode being wheeled around on a trolley to make him look taller).
They even cope manfully with the problems caused to the set by the Opera House’s notoriously raked stage (the start of the show had been delayed while they ironed these out).
At times it could be said that the plays ceaseless energy is almost too much – after a while it’s like you’re being beaten round the head with a slapstick frying pan. But it would be churlish not to warm to this energetic and crowd-pleasing entertainment.
The show can be seen at Buxton Opera House until Saturday September 12 and will be at Derby Theatre from November 16-21.