Review: Jeeves & Wooster: Perfect Nonsense at Chichester Festival Theatre

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What Ho! Fancy a chortle and a spot of mayhem? Head to Chichester for glorious silliness in abundance, in the shape of the Olivier Award-winning Best Comedy of the year 2014.

Never was a title more apt, for this is an evening of joyful, unashamed, bonkers entertainment.

Based on PG Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters, the premise is that Bertie Wooster (Robert Webb of Peep Show) undertakes to tell an amusing anecdote and has hired a theatre to do it.

That’s where we 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 from The Young Ones) to recreate the rest, women and all.

The plot is full of the usual near-miss shenanigans involving romantic intertwinings, an antique cow creamer and a country house weekend at the crumbling pile of Gussie Fink-Nottle. Non-stop fun is generated by the antics of Thorpe and Ryan as they scramble from one costume to another, cross-dressing with glee, unfeasibly managing to play two characters simultaneously and magically appearing where you’d least expect them.

The duo also provide scenery, props and hilarious on-stage sound effects.

The problem is that in this slick, tightly choreographed, technically perfect gag-fest, Webb draws the short straw.

While the others cavort at top speed in various guises, he has no choice but to play the straight man – an endearing, braying, gawping upper-class-twit of a straight man, but a straight man nonetheless.

I can’t help but think he’d love to be sashaying out of the French windows wearing a fringed lampshade as Madeline Basset, or showing a leg as Stiffy Byng.

Still, however contrived, this is pure escapism. Escape until Saturday.