Review: Come On Jeeves at Peoples Theatre
Come On, Jeeves by Guy Bolton and PG Wodehouse
The People’s Theatre – Newcastle upon Tyne
20th June 2023
Another new venue for me, although I have been here before, this was my first time reviewing. It is a lovely venue with a bright and airy foyer and bar area with lots of comfortable seats which once in, you may not want to get out of – but get out of them you must to make your way to the theatre auditorium which is splendid but the seats are not nearly as comfortable. The staff are very welcoming and thoroughly delightful to talk to. The two gentlemen on the door were happy to chat to me and to explain that the reason tonight’s performance was effectively socially distant was to encourage those patrons who are still nervous about packed auditoriums following the global pandemic to return, once more to the theatre. I congratulated them on their forward thinking and I am such that it has encouraged patrons to return to other theatres in the region as well so bravo to The People’s Theatre.
Come On, Jeeves is set in the world of Bertie Jeeves and his butler, the ever dependable, Jeeves and was written by Guy Bolton and novelist and creator of the characters Jeeves and Wooster, PG Wodehouse. PG Wodehouse wrote a standalone novel ‘Ring for Jeeves’ which was published a year before the play, on which it was based, was performed. Bertie Wooster is mentioned but does not appear in this play which tells of Jeeves being loaned out to the Earl of Towcester while Wooster himself is attending school to assist the upper classes acquire some survival strategies due to dwindling fortunes following the second world war. It is clear from the text, that Jeeves is none too pleased about this turn of events butremains loyal to his duties to the equally feckless Earl ofTowcester.
Come On, Jeeves is a farce and there are plenty of laughs to be had at the ludicrous situations The Earl of Towcester (or Bill) finds himself in when he swindles a Captain and ardent hunter out of his winnings on a horse while he is masquerading as a turf accountant or bookie, all while trying to keep the truth from his veterinarian fiancée, Jill. Add to the mix, Bill’s forthright sister Lady Carmoyle, her flippant and loose-tongued husband, Lord Carmoyle and a ditzy but very rich American Mrs Spotsworth and you get some fantastic interactions.
Bill (Ryan Smith) is every bit the upper-class twit that Wooster is and Smith really gets into the character. The ever-dependable Jeeves is very effectively played by Steve Robertson and gets that delightful balance of distain of everyone and careful consideration as to how to get his charge out of the predicaments he finds himself. Lord and Lady Carmoyle are wonderfully portrayed by Steve Hewitt and Kirstie Corfield respectively and the dynamic between the two of them feels very genuine.
The comedic role of Captain Biggar is played by Mark Burden and there is more than a passing resemblance to how Roger Lloyd Pack may have played the part in looks, vocally,and mannerisms. If this was intentional then it was a very good impersonation but I found it a little distracting from what was a solid performance as Burden maintained the character throughout. The American, with some very funny ideas about reincarnation and the afterlife, is played exquisitely by Ann Zunder although her accent does drop and is generically American rather than specific to the region from where she is purported to hail. A special mention has to go to the maid, Ellen (Lauren Allison) who does not have a lot to do but she steals the scenes when she does make her brief appearances.
There are lots of laughs in this play and it is a thoroughly enjoyable production. A good farce relies on impeccable comic timing and on numerous occasions this evening the production hits its mark. Jeeves quietly walking across the stage with a bucket to catch the rain seeping into the failing integrity of the manor is a case in point but I feel that thetempo of the very wordy script sometimes becomes slow at times which causes the humour to err on the laboured. Tonight was opening night so I am sure this will be addressed as the cast’s confidence grows into what is an excellent show directed by Matthew Hope and assisted by Xander Brouwer.
The set design (Megan Smith) and build (Sands Dobson) is absolutely spot on – there was even a hilarious case of unintentional poltergeist activity this evening which added deliciously to the narrative of a haunting presence. The lighting design (Karen Dales) and sound design (Jess Williams) was appropriate and balanced and the costumes (Julie Tucker, Luke McVeigh, and Heather A) were excellent throughout.
I have no hesitation to recommend seeing this faithful adaptation of the PG Wodehouse universe on stage and very well done to everyone involved in bringing this excellent production to the stage.
Come On, Jeeves plays at The People’s Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne until Saturday 24th June.
-Reviewed by Stephen Stokoe
photos by Paul Hood
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