Grand Theatre, Leeds – 1 June 2015
A play within a play this show is a classic farce. Sean Foley (The Ladykillers) is a great comic director and he is once again in winning form here. The pretext of Perfect Nonsense, neatly adapted by the Goodale Brothers from The Code of the Woosters (1937) is that Bertie Wooster (Robert Webb) has hired a West End theatre to put on a dramatised version of an elaborate anecdote involving his Aunt Dahlia, Gussie Fink-Nottle, the Basset family and various relatives and servants and crucially a silver creamer shaped like a cow. That’s where the audience come in – from the off we are directly addressed and included in the ensuing amateur-theatrical riot. Realising he can’t possibly play all the characters alone, Wooster recruits the straight-faced fixer-of-all-things Jeeves (Jason Thorpe) and the diminutive manservant Seppings (Christopher Ryan) to recreate the rest, women, dogs and all.
One of the great fictional story tellers, Wooster speaks to you as if you were a most intimate friend, misquoting Shakespeare, stumbling over himself to explain the complexities of his social circle, comparing conversing aunts to ‘as if shouting across a ploughed field in a high wind,’ and on receiving bad news, said it hit him like ‘one who has been picking daisies by the railway line and catches the 4.15 in the small of the back’. He bestows ludicrous significance to the relatively minor mishaps of his pampered existence.
Jason Thorpe is excellent at these hi-jinks, and is near-unrecognisable in some of his guises, all of which are inspired. There are laughs to be had guessing just how he’ll manage his next transition from one character to another. Christopher Ryan is the star of the show as Seppings and his impressions.
Whether emulating a gale with a wind shield-smacking branch or doing his utmost to convince as an eight-foot beast of a man, Ryan is hilarious.
While Thorpe and Ryan both play multiple parts, Robert Webb is the show’s anchor, his Bertie striking the right notes of cheery naivety and childlike fear – usually justified – of getting caught up to no good. The plot unfolding around him serves up a stolen cow-shaped creamer, an offensive notebook, a policeman’s hat, plus obligatory attempts to prevent Bertie being jostled into marriage. And though a very – VERY – wordy piece Webb manages it outstandingly
The show is bonkers and charming and laugh out loud funny from curtain up to the marvellous, deadpan, dance routine at the finale
In Leeds until Saturday 6 June and on a national tour of the UK, this is one of the funniest things you will see this year.
Perfect Nonsense – Perfect Comedy – Perfect Family Entertainment – Perfect Night Out