Theatre review: Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense- 'Bye and large, top-hole'

Duke of York's Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

Stephen Mangan is the Platonic ideal as Bertie Wooster, as is clear from the moment he clocks the audience and bares his teeth in the most adorably asinine and good-natured grin in captivity.  “I thought we said 7 for 7.30.”

The conceit in Perfect Nonsense, adroitly adapted by the Goodale Brothers from The Code of the Woosters (1938), is that, egged on by a friend, Bertie has hired a West End theatre in order to perform a one-man show about a disastrous weekend at Totleigh Towers.

Of course, his trusty valet Jeeves (Matthew Macfadyen) is soon called upon to initiate him into such mysteries as scenery and, together with Aunt Dahlia's wheezy old butler, Seppings (Mark Hadfield),  to play a dizzying array of roles in a madcap farce that involves a silver cow-creamer, blackmail, a couple of fiances and a fascist. 

The nudge-nudge pretence of chaotic amateurism in Sean Foley's knockabout production (the bicycle-powered revolve, say) can get a bit tiresome. But Macfadyen and Hadfield turn in tours de force of inspired silliness and versatility. And I don't see how Mangan, with his honking toff's laugh and his lovely aura of benign dimness and noblesse oblige, could be bettered as Bertie. By and large, top-hole.

To 8 March; 0844 871 7623