This innovative, fresh, fast-moving comedy takes every theatrical trope and twists it into a tool for narrating Wodehouse’s absurd story with a style and originality that truly does it justice. The springboard for the Goodales seems to have been Edward Duke’s acclaimed one man show of 1980, based on “The Code of the Woosters”, in which he played all the parts.
Here, Jeeves (Jason Thorpe) enables Wooster (Ed Hancock) to tell the convoluted story of Bertie’s narrow escapes from marriage and being beaten “to a jelly” by Roderick Spode. Seppings, Aunt Agatha’s diminutive ancient butler (Christopher Ryan), helps out, and the two butlers play all the characters except Bertie himself. Along the way, Bertie’s narrative recounts his friend Alfie Finknottle’s obsession with newts, his engagement to whispy Honoria, and the intervention of the strident Stiffy Byng. Jeeves, of course, efficiently knocks up scenery and props, including a cunning method to add inches to tiny Seppings in his role as the huge Roderick. The stage business that this led to had me weeping with laughter.
Jeeves’ resourcefulness is stretched to the full as he and Seppings create all the characters between them, including the two very assertive young ladies, which leads to some hilarious business between Bertie and Jeeves in the persona of Honoria.
The cast are brilliant. Jason Thorpe as Jeeves effortlessly changes gender and age as the story requires, and at one point resourcefully creates an essential fourth actor from a lampshade and a curtain. Christopher Ryan is equally versatile. Ed Hancock’s Wooster is as stylishly gormless and charming as Wodehouse created him.
The “fourth wall” between the stage and the auditorium is firmly ignored and Bertie takes the audience into his confidence from the start, so that he can speak to us in Wodehouse’s rich prose while the sight-gags pop and bubble all around. Even a fortuitous fly flitting about the stage on the night I saw the play became a character to be included in the playful business.
Fast-moving, witty, innovative, stylish and hilarious: don’t miss this wonderful production. It’s made my week!