BENGALURU: From re-reading Damsel in Distress as a teen to dillegently following classic novels on Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves, every bibliophile has hoarded a stack of PG Woodehouse books to go with that cuppa on a rainy day.
To that classic reader in you and the ones who haven’t quite discovered Woodehouse quite yet, the London's West End theatrical production that captures the genius of the writer.
“Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense”, originally directed by Sean Foley, and adapted by brothers Robert and David Goodale was prized with the 2014 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.
“In conventional dramatisations of Wodehouse's work it is very hard to bring out the overall brilliance of his writing," explains David Goodale. David is the co-writer and director of the production.
The director has made Bertie Wooster both narrator and protagonist, and that allowed him to employ a ‘raft of witticisms’ that wouldn’t have worked in a straightforward adaptation.
Wodehouse fans will recognise the characters, the plot and many of the brilliant lines of dialogue from The Code of the Woosters", says the director.
However the production has added an extra dimension of “a play within a play”, which seems to really appeal to Wodehouse devotees in different parts of the wall.
This is the first time the play is being performed in Bengaluru.
Robert Goodale, who is the co-writer of the play also essays the role of Seppings the butler.
“When we were writing the play, we realised that in addition to the main protagonists, we wanted someone to assist Jeeves in recreating all the other characters in Bertie's world. Aunt Dahlia's butler, Seppings, only makes a handful of appearances in the books, but he seemed to be an obvious choice. The man is very frail and on his last legs but when he has to perform other roles, he comes alive and lights up the stage,” describes Robert.
He says that it is very satisfying to shuffle on bent double and then to go through all the subsequent transformations into aunts, policemen and ridiculous dictators.
Ironically, to play “this old retainer”, Robert had to be incredibly fit.
“Just before I started rehearsing for the part, our producer paid for me to go through a rigorous course of personal training. I also went to a voice coach to help me connect with a variety of vocal registers,” he says.
Mathew Carter, who plays Bertie Wooster says he has friends who resemble his character in traits and has some fairly forceful characters like aunt Dahlia in his life.
“Jeeves is far more inscrutable and organised than I am,” says actor Joseph Chance who plays the part and says that he does feel a kinship with the character's interest in philosophy.
“Also I like to think I have something of Jeeves' good judgement when it comes to character. I truly find Bertie to be a charming and witty companion - infuriating at times, of course - but an honourable man so well worth being friends with! Thankfully, the class system in Britain has undergone some changes since the 1930s,” says Joseph.
The actor worked with Bobby Goodale before and become friends with him, so he was able to watch the development of the play over time.
It always helps to know the shape of a comedy, he says.
"We Brits love our language but we also love a comedy of misunderstandings. The text is the key," he adds.
Catch the play until November 13 from 07.30pm to 9pm at St Johns Auditorium,Koramangala.