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Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense

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1/3
© Craig Sugden

Robert Webb (Bertie Wooster) and Mark Heap (Jeeves)

2/3
© Craig Sugden

Mark Heap (Jeeves) and Robert Webb (Bertie Wooster)

3/3
© Craig Sugden

Mark Heap (Jeeves), Robert Webb (Bertie) and Mark Hadfield (Steppings)

James Lance and John Gordon Sinclair will take over as the final Jeeves and Wooster from June 30

It’s rare that a West End show’s second cast is as good as its first. But for fans of cult noughties Britcoms, something special is going on at the Duke of York's Theatre, as Robert Webb (Jez from ‘Peep Show’) and Mark Heap (Brian from ‘Spaced’) take over the beloved title roles in this giddily daft play-within-a-play adaptation of PJ Wodehouse’s ‘The Code of the Woosters’.

All three parts – Mark Hadfield is retained from the first cast – are demanding. But the show, presented as Bertie Wooster’s own amateurish re-enactment of a recent adventure, stands or falls on the actor playing the cheery toff.

At first glance Webb is strange casting: ‘Peep Show’s Jeremy was embittered, mercenary and cynical. But he also had an endearingly childlike quality, which Webb brings to the fore here for a radiantly daffy performance, grinning delightedly and blinking with cheerful incomprehension at every hairpin twist in ‘Perfect Nonsense’s florid plot. It is no easy feat to command the stage while looking like you don’t have the faintest clue what’s going on, but Webb makes idiocy look effortless.

Heap has made a career out of drollness, and archetypal deadpan butler Jeeves is almost too easy a fit. But he shines later on, as he diversifies into other parts, building to a virtuoso maelstrom of a scene in which he simultaneously plays a father and a daughter engaged in a heated row with each other.

Plus, immense credit to Hadfield, the show’s backbone. He’s a one-man army of characters, tackling everything from Wooster’s termagant aunt to a level crossing, to discreetly hilarious effect.

Sean Foley’s production makes an absolute virtue of the fact that it’s impossible to follow the story (something to do with Wooster being blackmailed into stealing a jug, I think); it is sensationally silly and to be honest I’d forgotten the finer details by the time I reached the tube.

But like a spot-on cucumber sandwich or a perfectly mixed jug of Pimm’s, ‘Perfect Nonsense’ leaves a very agreeable impression – it's frothiness elevated to art, a very English success.

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LiveReviews|8
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Harry Green

Go see Mangan in this before he abdicates - he was born for this role and is exceptional. I saw it a few months ago and couldn't tell you one iota of the plot, but I remember plenty of the inventive slapstick routines.

Ms Christina Reid

Wonderful play, Great actor's, Brilliant storyline. A Hillarious show with some Wonderful character's., especially 'GUSSIE FINK' in my eye's was the Best Character. I was in stitches the whole way through. A very, very Funny play. EXCEPTIONAL

Claire

I was pleasantly surprised by just how many laughs were to be had from this fast-paced show. It reflected the book very nicely and had no difficulty bringing the characters and dialogue to life. I wasn't sure what to expect, particularly when I learned that the cast consisted of just three actors, all of whom being male. However, this just added to the comedy, and the whole audience were roaring with laughter on many an occasion. The only disappointment for me was finding that Stephen Mangan was not performing the day I went, but I have to say his understudy did a superb job, so full marks to him but I'm planning to go to another performance soon and am looking forward to reliving the experience with Mangan this time in the role of the adorable Bertie Wooster. Clean, silly and perfectly executed, this is a play just about anyone can enjoy as it appeals to so many different senses of humour.

Marcus

Saw this Monday night and we loved it. Superbly written and acted, it resembles a long version of one the the plays "what Ernie Wise wrote" in the Morecombe and Wise shows. Very fast wardrobe changes, perfectly executed scene changes and wonderful audience interaction. I was concerned it would be a pale imitation of the Fry and Laurie version, but it was fresh, different and totally enthralling. The cast of three could not have done better. Go if you can

Alex

Just bought tickets for this play and i am already giving it 5 stars! Haven't seen it yet, but i know i will love it!

Emma

Brilliant! So funny. Everyone was laughing - great for kids as well as adults. Don't miss it!! Such a great night out, does Wodehouse proud!

Peter Nixon

Based on the Jeeves and Wooster story 'Code of the Woosters', Perfect Nonsense sees our odd couple recounting the events at Totleigh Towers through a dramatic production of their own. Whilst Wooster (Mangan) plays himself throughout, both Stephen Macfadyen (Jeeves) and Mark Hadfield take on a host of eccentric characters, bowling along at quite a clip and employing the tried and tested physical trickery of farce. Macfadyen's bravura performance gives a nod to a host of comic icons from Basil Fawlty and Monty Python to Porridge's Mr McKay. The overall result is a Wodehousian treat, although in just its first week at Richmond, the comic timing and audience interaction is not quite top notch yet. This will surely come with performances, and by the time it hits London should be spot on. A bally hit for sure, and look out for the novel curtain call.