Did not live up to expectations, but enjoyable nonetheless.
The opening night of any show can be forgiven for a few slip-ups, nerves and forgetting of lines, but luckily for the cast of Jeeves & Wooster In Perfect Nonsense, forgiveness this would not be needed. Unfortunately though, that does not mean that the performance/production can not come under some slight criticism.
On a rainy, cold, November evening, there would seem to be no better cure for a miserable face than to go and see some live theatre at Southampton’s most majestic venue. The Goodale brothers’ adaption of P.G Woodhouse’s beloved show came to Southampton with high critical acclaim, so expectations were high for this production.
It started off very slowly. Considering this was meant to be an Olivier award-winning production, there was little on show to suggest how such an accolade was achieved. The script was very complex, with very sophisticated vocabulary. Couple this with the incredibly posh accents on show and audience members could be forgiven for not quite being able to follow the storyline. James Lance (playing Bertie Wooster) almost seemed to babble through his lines at certain points during the first half. It is also possible that he had used comedian Lee Evans as influence for facial expressions, as some were an uncanny resemblance to the funny man. However, his stage presence was good and his mannerisms fittingly matched the portrayal of a clumsy aristocrat.
Arguably the best performance of the night came from John Gordon Sinclair who had the pleasure of playing dutiful valet, Jeeves. His accents for each character during the reenactment of the story, most notably when portraying newt-lover Gussie Fink-Nottle and Sir Watkyn Bassett, were spot on and, unlike Robert Goodale as Seppings, his lines were clear and easily understood throughout. That is not to say however that Goodale did not do a great job as Seppings. In terms of providing comical value, Goodale did an exceptional job, particularly when playing giant Roderick Spode.
The plot was quite difficult to follow at times, as there were various sub-plots which were not particularly clear, nor necessarily relevant to the main storyline. The most prominent example of this would be the theft of a policeman’s hat. Not only did it contribute nothing to the overall story dramatically or comically, but it was not exactly clear whether the whole situation was actually resolved. Laughter from the audience was sparse and definitely too infrequent for a show which has such high critical acclaim. However, this could be put down to the fact that the story had to be explained and therefore not too much clumsy humour and idiocy could be included early on in order to risk the plot actually going nowhere.
As the saying goes though, this was a story of two halves. The first was uninteresting and pedestrian, the second was extremely witty and actually very enjoyable. Sinclair provided the most comical moment of the evening whilst having to act out both parts of an argument between Sir Watkyn Bassett and his niece Madeline. Donning on one half of his body a tweed suit and hat, complete with smoking a pipe, and on the other half a long blue dress and blonde hair, the audience where left booming with laughter at the misfortune of the character (Jeeves) having to act out both parts frantically. Goodale also contributed to the laughter coming from the stalls by clearly becoming out of breath as the aged Seppings who had a lot of running around to do throughout the evening playing his various roles.
Overall, this performance fell just short of personal expectations. Laughs were too few and far between in the first half for a show that is meant to be so notoriously funny. The second half did, however, make up for a lot of the first’s shortfalls, and Sinclair and Goodale more than made up for Lance’s below-par performance. This is definitely a show that should be recommended, just as long as expectations are not too high, because if they are not, then you are in for an enjoyable evening.
Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense is an overall enjoyable show though slow to start and ultimately does not meet expectations.
Tickets and information for Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense can be found here.