18 June 2008
Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage
By Jeeves, where's the fizz?!
Well, I liked the costumes!
And the set was nice!
But I have to say, and I KNOW it's a cliche, but, about half way through the first half, I really did find myself thinking about what I would have for dinner the next night! And to be honest, I really don't know what to say about this production!
Firstly, the plot - I can at least outline that I think!
In this story, Jeeves (Richard Pocock) is without Wooster, which is a bit like Pinky being without Perky. But it's explained away by Wooster being out of town and Jeeves only being "on loan" to the Earl of Towcester (James Cawood).
This Earl is struggling to maintain both his crumbling Towcester Abbey home, and a secret gambling habit and most of the play is based on the fact that he he has to keep this information from his fiancée Jill (Myfanwy Waring), as well as his visiting sister Lady Monica (Judy Buxton), and her husband Lord Rory (Derren Nesbitt). Yawn.
The rest of the story is based on wealthy American Mrs Spottsworth, played by the legendary Anita Harris, who has been brought to the ailing home by Lady Monica with a view to her buying it.
Jeeves, played by Richard Pocock is of course always on hand to help preserve sanity amongst it all.
That's about it really, but it's all rather long-winded and as the first half is basically all about setting up this scene and as this takes more than an hour, I think you can get my drift! It's so slow, it's like being behind a tractor in a 70mph zone.
I did an interview with the legendary Anita Harris before I saw the play and she said that it was "lovely, relaxed and safe" and this to an extent is true but I would say that for "relaxed and safe" read "a bit boring" really!
She also says that it's a funny play rather than a comedy and yes, it's vaguely amusing in places, but not "funny" in the true sense of the word - i.e. it makes you laugh! There were some polite chuckles in places but that's about as far as it got. PG Wodehouse is said to be one of Britain's greatest literary humorists but I think it's fairly safe to say that this is not him at his finest.
Jeeves has some nice lines but in general this play should have sparkling repartee - in reality it just had a light fizz.
What made this night really interesting was that it was a signed performance and this inadvertantly provided the funniest moments for me. Because the signer didn't really seem to understand what was happening either!
When I wasn't pre-occupied by tomorrow night's dinner, I glanced at her because she seemed to be providing most of the action and interest, but even she seemed to be somewhat under-employed! I think she was actually paraphrasing - there were a lot of gaps between the odd flick of the hand!
The cast were OK and did their best to eek out the chuckles. James Cawood as the Earl of Towcester is a daffy kind of toff, just like Wooster in fact, and Richard Pocock's Jeeves has good stage presence and delivers well, the few good lines that I enjoyed.
Anita Harris’ clairvoyant Mrs Spottsworth was glamorous and did a very good Charleston, but was, dare I say it, a little bit hammy! Sorry - Anita, I think you are fabulous but this role really didn't do anything for you. For me the stars were Judy Buxton and Darren Nesbitt as Lady Monica and Lord Rory because they were the ones who were responsible for the spartan amount of laughs with their well-timed delivery.
But the main problem with this production is that I really didn't care about it. I didn't engage with the story, didn't feel anything for the characters and couldn't really give two hoots what happened.
It all felt a bit tired and a bit dated and was ultimately rather disappointing. 1930s drawing room comedies can be sparkling - this was just dull. But the costumes were nice!