Lucy Russell gets cosy with PG Wodehouse’s iconic duo, Jeeves and Wooster, in this musical comedy production held in Clifton Hill House.
On walking into the ‘Church hall’ that is Clifton Hill House JCR I am greeted and shown to our seats by an eclectic collection of characters telling us about their cause to raise money to build a new Church steeple. Before the show has even begun, we are offered refreshments and meet several of the characters and heard about their role in the production.
The commitment to the creation of this real ‘village hall’ atmosphere, complete with the caricatures you would expect to find in such a place, is not only very entertaining but a real indication of the level of energy and enthusiasm that would remain throughout the show.
The show is centred around the idea that Bertie Wooster (Charlie Mitchell) is forced to entertain the audience for two hours while waiting on the arrival of a banjo, ably assisted by his butler Jeeves (Tom Younger), who acts as a sort of stage manager – but also seems to be the only person who knows the story itself.
Scheijde’s [directing] is incredibly funny and resourceful.
The volunteers of the village hall then quickly become the characters in Wooster’s story. This meta-narrative come plot device is very funny once the story gets going, but the beginning becomes quite confusing as it’s often unclear which narrative is being told.
This isn’t helped by the fact a good deal of the dialogue is quite dense and employing a sort of dry ‘British’ humour in quite a chaotic show. This means emotions and circumstances change quickly for characters while the ends of lines are often lost, leaving the audience a little behind.
Credit, then, has to go to Cameron Scheijde, for his incredibly funny and resourceful directing. While the dry British wit is sometimes lost, the majority of the humour in this production seems to come from the direction and the way in which the meta narrative critiques the lack of props and direction itself, with Wooster being driven (or pushed) around in a little cardboard car and climbing ‘up’ a horizontal ladder.
during ensemble numbers […] the sound is strongest and the energy is at it’s highest
It is ambitious to stage an almost full length production in a JCR but it works well in the setting and the way the cast throw themselves into everything and take on ridiculous roles such as cow, lamp, doorbell and ‘yellow thing’ makes it incredibly fun and really picks the piece up when it’s lagging.
Musically, the production is at its strongest during ensemble numbers when the sound is strongest and the energy is at it’s highest. There is no lack of spirit and enthusiasm and all actors embrace the farcical elements of the production with the song ‘It’s a Pig’, summing up the chaotic and ridiculous nature of the story, as a feisty Honoria Glossop (Alina Young) holds a man to ransom with a snooker cue.
Overall, By Jeeves is a hilarious farce, and full of chaos in the best possible way. The unwavering energy and commitment of the cast is what really makes the production and is brilliantly British and brilliantly good fun.
By Jeeves performances on 12th/13th May at Clifton Hill House. Tickets available here.
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