Theatre reviews: Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, Bodyguard and Jeremy Hardy

Jason Thorpe as Jeeves, Robert Webb as Bertie Wooster and Christopher Ryan as Seppings in  Jeeves and Wooster - Perfect Nonsense. Picture by Hugo Glendinning
Jason Thorpe as Jeeves, Robert Webb as Bertie Wooster and Christopher Ryan as Seppings in Jeeves and Wooster - Perfect Nonsense. Picture by Hugo Glendinning
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Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, Leeds Grand Theatre, reviewed by Liz Coggins ****

Over the years there have been many unsuccessful attempts to adapt PG Wodehouse’s work for the stage until the Goodale Brothers took his 1938 novel The Code of the Woosters and wrote the multi-award award winning play Perfect Nonsense.

The structure of the play is similar to Noises Off and The Play That Goes Wrong. Wooster hires a theatre to put on a dramatised version of one of his escapades involving Aunt Dahlia, a cow cream dispenser, a notebook containing scandalous revelations and a visit to his newt loving chum.. Realising he can’t play all the parts, he enlists the help of gentlemen’s gentleman Jeeves and his aunt’s butler, Seppings, who double as his cast.

What follows is a brilliantly staged piece of mayhem with unbelievable pace, ingenuity and comedy timing with the two men leaving the stage as one character and returning immediately as another and making it look so easy!

Jason Thorpe (Jeeves) is utterly amazing in his characterisation getting that non-emotion stern look off to perfection. His eccentric role changes are totally convincing bordering on sheer brilliance in one piece where he simultaneously plays a man and woman.

I was left breathless by Christopher Ryans (Seppings) versatility, seamless changes of persona and costume. Like Thorpe he has multifarious roles to play including dotty Aunt Dahlia and the vile Roderick Spode, whose height creates the perfect running gag. Robert Webb’s Bertie Wooster is sufficiently cut glass and buffoon enough to satisfy the most discerning Wodehouse fan, however at times his delivery descended into a gabble and he really does need up the volume as occasionally it was a struggle to hear him.

• To June 6.

Bodyguard, Bradford Alhambra, reviewed by Liz Coggins ***

The eagerly awaited musical The Bodyguard fired up and literally exploded onto the Alhambra stage using just about every special effects technique in the book.

With very little substance in its shallow, inadequate plot and gaps in the storyline that leave many points unexplained it could easily have transcended into a damp squib. But with the clever use of laser lights and pyrotechnics, imaginative staging, exciting choreography and above all its music it turned into a night to remember.

The story, taken from the 1992 film with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner involves a fictitious pop star being pursued by a dangerous stalker. Her management hire her a bodyguard, whom she dislikes at first, but the inevitable happens and she ends up falling in love with him.

Laden with Houston’s hits such as Greatest Love of All, Saving All My Love, I Will Always Love You and I’m Every Woman and some of the most exciting production numbers to grace the Alhambra’s stage, the music drives this show.

• To June 13.

Jeremy Hardy, City Varieties, Leeds, reviewed by Yvette Huddleston *****

It is hugely comforting for all of us to know we are not alone in the way we think about the world – which is why we generally seek out friends who share our politics, interests, philosophy and sense of humour. And spending a couple of hours in the company of Jeremy Hardy at the City Varieties on Friday night felt like one of those evenings we’ve all had “putting the world to rights” with an old mate over a drink or two. 

During his act Hardy explains that sometimes a few people will leave at the interval of his show and he knows they are the Radio 4 listeners who have heard him on The News Quiz and think “he just pretends he doesn’t like Tories” for the sake of broadcast entertainment. Make no mistake – this is a comedian who is proud of his left-wing politics and is unafraid to say so. After a wonderfully robust and amusing semi-rant against unbridled materialism and greed he says “this may sound like old-fashioned 1970s Socialism, but I make no apology for that”, prompting a round of sympathetic applause from the audience. 

In between the astute and very funny analysis of the General Election and modern-day British politics there were some hilarious observations on current socio-sexual trends that included a laugh-out-loud riff on the possible stuffing material used in Ikea cushions (which cannot be repeated in a family newspaper) as well as some genuinely moving references to his elderly parents and the stoicism of the Second World War generation. Hardy has been peddling his intelligent, engaged and resonant brand of standup for thirty years now; long may he continue.