In the mood for some comedy and theatrical hijinks to distract you from the chaos in the world? Well, then the production ‘Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense’ at Theatre On The Bay might just be the tonic for you.
Featuring some of South Africa’s premiere performing talents in Graham Hopkins, Jonathan Roxmouth and Robert Fridjhon, this is a new play adapted from the works of P G Wodehouse by The Goodale Brothers that follows the effervescent, aristocratic fool Bertie Wooster and his dutiful valet Jeeves. In the show, the two find themselves having to deal with the fallout of a country house weekend that takes a turn for the worse. The play was the winner of the 2014 Olivier Award for Best Comedy in the UK.
PETER TROMP caught up with some of the key creatives behind this comedic endeavour.
GRAHAM HOPKINS, The Star
How does it feel to be back at Theatre On The Bay?
Wonderful. I always enjoy playing here. Cape Town has some great theatre spaces. I’ve recently also enjoyed performing upstairs at The Fugard and in both theatres at Artscape. And I’ve done some really exciting work at the Baxter over the years. Even the tiny Alexander Bar theatre is producing interesting work. I went to see some colleagues performing there last night and both shows were excellent. It feels a bit like the Space Theatre in the 1970s.
Tell us a bit about ‘Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense’, and what audiences can look forward to with the show.
PG Wodehouse is always a pleasure and a delight to read. It’s funny, witty, clever and always entertaining. If we can achieve something of that in the show, then we’re on the right track.
Your last two roles in Cape Town blended comedy and drama almost perfectly, while this show sounds more straightforwardly comedic in tone. Are you glad to just be focusing on the business of being funny? And how challenging is that?
I guess it’s not so much about “being funny” as about being true to the character and the situation. If the character is funny – and Wodehouse characters always are – then hopefully one’s performance will follow suit. The show is, however, quite frenetic. It’s one of the most technically challenging I’ve done. It takes an awful lot of work to look effortless.
Tell us a bit about your character and your process of realising him.
Jeeves is inimitable, impassive, imperturbable and – seemingly – able to achieve the impossible, with unruffled composure. The other characters are not! The quick changes are the real challenge.
Roxmouth and Fridjhon – tell us a bit about your co-stars and why audiences should be excited to see you guys all together.
It’s great to be working with Robert again. We did ‘Pythonesque’ and ‘Travels With My Aunt’ together and Rob is a hugely talented actor and comedian. It’s my first time working with Jonathan and it’s going very well. He has taken to Bertie Wooster like a yellow rubber duck to the bath tub. I hope the audience finds some of our antics as funny as we do. So far so good…
STEVEN STEAD, The Director
What can people look forward to with show?
Two hours of light-hearted lunacy in the company of three of the most talented actors in the country.
What attracted you to the project?
The delicious combination of adroit wit and sophisticated text with the broad farcical action. It is a terrific tour de force for the actors and for the director.
Has there been a eureka moment where you felt your vision coming together just the way you had wanted?
There is a scene involving all three actors, bed sheets, a bed and a window, which became breathtaking when we put the scenery in position. Until then, we weren’t sure it would all work. But it does. Fabulously. You’ll have to see it to understand.
GREG KING, The Designer
What is exciting about the show for a designer to work on?
The premise of the show is that loveable twit Bertie Wooster sets out to present a show without any preparation whatsoever. Within minutes he’s in a pickle and he calls on his trusty manservant, Jeeves to help. From there on, everything Bertie imagines, Jeeves miraculously brings to life, supposedly constructed in the wings. As the mayhem ensues, the show progresses from a bare stage to fully furnished, completely realised box set, with scene changes. It is packed with theatricality, illusions, quick changes and visual gags. In other words, a designer’s dream.
Is there a costume, or set-piece in the show that you particularly hope audiences will notice?
There is a puppet character, a frightfully unpleasant little dog named Bartholomew. There are three different versions of him because he has to attack a policeman, get carried around on the arm of his owner, Stiffy Bing, and then chase Bertie around the bedroom at the end of his leash. It has been a particular delight to see Graham and Robert Fridjohn bring Bartholomew to life in his different forms.
* Showing until November 8.
Book at Computicket.