It always seems unfair when particular delights, best-comedy Olivier winners like this, are reserved for the West End, even if they do run a whole year and do bargain ticket offers. On the other hand a touring cast can find itself unfairly considered – well, a bit second-rate, after starry names took turns up West. But the Goodale brothers’ fabulous treatment of P.G.Wodehouse, in which Bertie attempts to put on a play about the eventful cow-creamer weekend at Totleigh, more than survives its transfer to the open road . From Crewe to Colchester,and Aylesbury to Inverness you have a treat in store.
The play itself is gorgeous – my London review here gives the general idea – http://tinyurl.com/oxse654 – but in some ways, tweaked a bit and performed with a ferocious brio which endures all the way to a jitterbugging curtain-class and whoops from the audience, this felt even jollier. The friend I took actually got pains from laughing too much.
Having talked to the new cast – Joseph Chance as Jeeves, Matthew Carter as Wooster and co-author Robert Goodale as Seppings – being just up the road I sneaked in to the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds on its second night out. A bit unfairly, as reviewers aren’t yet invited, but I can report that it is a riot. Sean Foley’s original direction is now taken over by David Goodale – brother of Robert and co-creator of the play – and Alice Power’s set and costumes are even more gloriously, vaudevillishly ingenious and silly than before. Joseph Chance, new to the company, is sternly impassive as Jeeves but hurls himself alarmingly (sometimes simultaneously) into roles as diverse as Gussie, Stiffy Byng, Madeline, and Sir Watkyn Bassett, and Matthew Carter is the most gormlessly endearing of Berties.
But I have to say that the greatest glee of the night comes from the hurtling performance Robert Goodale himself, as Seppings the decrepit butler of Aunt Dahlia’s household, roped in by Jeeves to fill in the other parts. He plays his employer, the pleasingly gung-ho and intermittently violent Aunt Dahlia, plus Constable Oates and the 9ft tall Roderick Spode (on a dangerously rolling rig with Dahlia’s skirt showing underneath ). And also takes on a number of props and special effects, including a loudly applauded turn as a level crossing on Bertie’s painstakingly staged drive to Totleigh.
They’re having a riot, these chaps, and so were we. And yes, the surprise bicycle, savage terrier and rubber duck bath scene are still there. Gruntled? You bet.