Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

10/02/2018 - 03/03/2018

Production Details

When a country house weekend takes a turn for the worse, Bertie Wooster is unwittingly called on to play matchmaker AND steal a silver cow-shaped cream jug from Totleigh Towers. Things go seriously awry in this laugh-a-minute farce, perfect for the whole family this summer.

After a sell-out season on the West End, three UK tours and a world tour, the award-winning Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense comes to Dunedin for the first time.

Based on the timeless work of P.G Wodehouse, this smash-hit comedy by the Goodale Brothers is the perfect way to round off the summer.

Saturday 10 February – Saturday 3 March (public preview Friday 9 February)

Fortune  Theatre

  • Monday – No show
  • Tuesday – 6pm
  • Wednesday-Saturday – 7:30pm
  • Sunday – 4pm

Tickets $17.50-$45

Book online , call 03 4778323 or drop in to the Fortune Box Office

Directed by Jordan Dickson

Starring Andrew Paterson, Jack Buchanan and Andrew Ford

Theatre , Comedy ,

A felicitous serving of the lightest, most delectable soufflé imaginable

Review by Terry MacTavish 11th Feb 2018

Our world is undeniably, to say the very least, irksome.  Hence it is heartening to reflect that no less a critic than Evelyn Waugh once asserted that P G Wodehouse’s idyllic world of the 1920s could never stale, that it would release future generations (that’s us) from “captivity that may be more irksome than our own”. Such prescience. For anyone currently feeling sadly irked, and in urgent need of release, Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense should do the trick.

Those already fans of the writer once rudely called the performing flea of the literary world will relish the chance offered by the Fortune to slip into Wodehouse’s enchanting realm of light-hearted wit and inspired silliness, but even those who have never been blessed with the loan of a dog-eared copy when convalescing will surely be charmed by the bright young things and upper class twits of the crazy irresponsible period between the wars, the smart dialogue and absurd shenanigans.

It does seem such a fun time to have been alive (“and to be young was very heaven”) though one is left with the impression that most of the upper classes and their servants concealed disreputable secrets and consequently all relied heavily on a little light blackmail to get through. 

The plot is certainly perfect nonsense, although distinctly ingenious, based closely on The Code of the Woosters. While we do lose a lot of Wodehouse’s delicious tongue-in cheek commentary on the English upper classes, his quirky metaphors and tantalising sentence structure, the theatre can compensate with all the classic features of farce: the visual humour of chaps in their long underwear, or even less when being deftly towel-dried by their manservant, and of confused idiots dashing in and out of doors and windows at precisely the right – or wrong – moment. 

The most productive theatrical device, however, is one which has become quite a specialty of New Zealand actors, whether through necessary penny-pinching or a number 8 wire versatility, and that is the skilful playing of multiple characters, necessitating fast changes and absurdly distinctive accents and physical characteristics. 

The premise is that Bertie sets out to tell us the ‘frightful’ story of what happened when his Aunt Dahlia sent him to Totleigh Towers to retrieve a silver antique cow-creamer, but quickly finding this too complicated for his admittedly tiny brain, he ropes in faithful manservant Jeeves, as well as his aunt’s butler Seppings, to enact the manic events of the weekend.

Jordan Dickson, his skills well-honed directing delightfully lively school holiday productions in the Fortune Studio, makes a triumphant debut on the mainstage, happily exploiting every opportunity for amusing stage business with his excellent cast. This tight trio clearly has a marvellous time playing not only their three ‘real’ characters, but all the eccentrics that people a Wodehouse novel, from demented dowagers to irascible earls, earnest policemen to giddy flappers.

Playing Bertie Wooster throughout, Jack Buchanan is charming and incredibly silly. He provides the continuity, interacting with his enraptured audience and constantly drawing our attention to the various theatrical devices by his admiring praise of his long-suffering assistants: “Seppings, that’s terribly good!” – “How are you doing this, Jeeves? It’s terrific!”

Andrew Paterson as Jeeves succeeds in being the perfect foil, hilariously deadpan as he deals with his hapless master in a series of devastating putdowns that soar over Bertie’s head. As Bertie’s newt-obsessed chum Gussie, however, he contorts his visage and writhes insanely, while as romantic interest Stephanie (Stiffy to her friends) he coquettes shamelessly, simultaneously neatly manipulating a tiny yapping dog.

The third member of the spankingly fit team, Andrew Ford as Seppings, also has the chance to act memorable characters, strutting as (usually) bewigged Aunt Dahlia, doddering as the cringingly grovelly butler of Totleigh. (“Oh no, thank YOU, sir!”) On occasion I believe he even argues with himself in the wings. *

The Fortune, usually open stage, has been fitted with a splendid red and gold proscenium arch and demure black curtains. Ioan Bramhall’s set, conjured up by Bertie as he relates the tale of the Totleigh Towers weekend, is a collection of versatile flats adorned with window, door, bookcase or fireplace with hand-operated flames, all of which can be swiftly wheeled about to indicate the various locations, plus the odd bath tub for climbing daringly out of, or bed for hiding under. Nor should I neglect to mention an adorable little yellow car to tootle along in! 

The costumes are designed by Rowan Holt for ease of swift changes and though Aunt Dahlia’s outfit is perhaps a little strange, the split male/female costuming for Jeeves, acting the parts of both indignant flapper and twit-boyfriend in fierce and fast debate, allows Paterson to pull off a most magnificent tour de force that has the audience actually cheering. 

Throughout, the frivolous mood has been enhanced by gay jazz music of the twenties (courtesy Lindsay Gordon), nicely utilised to support frenzied stage business, and for an irrepressible curtain call, Katherine Kennedy has choreographed an absolutely spiffing Charleston number, brilliantly executed by the cast, that sends us back to our irksome world feeling, as Bertie promised us at the outset, that we’ve really got our money’s worth!

Punch Magazine once observed that criticising Wodehouse is like taking a spade to a soufflé. Providing you leave your spade at home in the garden where it belongs, you are sure to enjoy this felicitous Fortune Theatre serving of the lightest, most delectable soufflé imaginable.

*The cracking pace and complicated plot make it quite possible I occasionally mismatch actor and character. This should be taken as a compliment. 


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