(Honorary Patron: Dame Vanessa Redgrave)

Come On Jeeves

Society: Grayshott Stagers

Production: Come On Jeeves by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse

Director: Sara Wilson-Soppitt

Date: Friday 25th November, 2022

Venue: Grayshott Village Hall, Hants

Description of the Production

This jolly play was written in 1952 and premiered in 1954. It tells of the cash-strapped Lord Towcester, who in common with many members of the landed gentry at the time, possess a crumbling pile they can no longer afford, and try all sorts of desperate measures to stay afloat. In Lord Towcester’s case, this has meant he becomes a very dodgy bookie, which lands him in all sorts of trouble. Luckily for him, he has the marvellous Jeeves with him, on loan from Bertie Wooster, who is away. He also has a helpful sister, who thinks she may have found a rich American widow who will buy his house. Unluckily for him, her husband, Rory, has a habit of putting his foot in it at all the wrong moments. Bill’s glamorous fiancée, Jill, turns out to be a true brick. Maybe things will turn out alright in the end!

Venue

Grayshott Village Hall is a wonderful, attractive venue. It is large and spacious, and offers a cosy bar. The Stagers offer a warm welcome to all, and it really seems a well-used and happy venue.

The Programme

This attractive programme contained welcome notes from the Chair and from the Director. Cast profiles were useful as always, and in-role photos provided a jolly memory. A fun quiz about P. G. Wodehouse was a great addition.

Scenery/Set/Props

The set was a visual delight, a typical early 20th century down-at-heel aristocrat’s drawing room, with faded wallpaper, ancestral portraits, shields and swords, an old trunk, a servants’ bell panel and so on. The main entrance was set diagonally, and the French windows gave onto a pretty garden. Attention to detail was good – there were even various old newspapers in evidence.

Lighting and Sound

The mood was set before curtain up with some jolly dance band music from the 20s or 30s. Lighting was effective throughout. There were some awesome bangings and crashings as Jeeves and Lord T tried to wrest the dreaded ticket from Captain Biggar, and the presence of Lady Agatha’s ghost was noted by some impressive thumps of a walking stick along the corridors or down the stairs.

Costumes/Makeup/Hair

Lord Towcester sported a very loud, green checked jacket, black eye patch and moustache in his guise as the dodgy bookie. He changed swiftly into country clothing worthy of the squire in no time at all. Captain Biggar, the White Hunter from Kuala Lumpur, looked splendid in tropical gear complete with pith helmet, long shorts, and colonial moustache. Jeeves, of course, was always impeccably turned out in dark suit, crisp shirt, and black tie. The English ladies both looked very elegant and understated, which contrasted delightfully with the showy (but lovely) outfits of the rich American, Rosalinda Spottsworth.

The Production

What a joy this production was, especially in a gloomy November full of crises! The casting was excellent, and the actors made their characters totally believable and indeed loveable, each and every one.

The dialogue was fast and witty as one would expect. Jeeves, skilfully played by Ellis Nicholls, was calm and collected and sailed the boat through the various tempests with a sure hand, much to the relief of the highly strung, rather hopeless Lord Towcester, played well by an amusing Piers Husband. Of course, Jeeves’ plans didn’t always achieve success and there were a couple of hilarious struggles in the dark after elaborate plots to relieve Captain Biggar of the important ticket, in which Jeeves and Mrs Spottsworth came off badly, and Captain Biggar strolled nonchalantly onto the set, none the worse for wear.

Lord Towcester’s sister, Monica Lady Carmoyle, obviously the more intelligent of the two siblings, was played to perfection by Helen Wigram. She had that motherly need to protect her brother, and was clearly greatly relieved to see firstly that he was under the care of the oh so capable Jeeves, and secondly that he had bagged himself the not only beautiful, but also exceedingly practical vet, Jill Wyvern. Monica’s eyebrows were frequently raised by the crazy goings on in the house, and never more so on learning that her brother’s escapades at the races were aided and abetted by Jeeves!

Monica’s husband, the nice but dim Rory, Lord Carmoyle, who was so proud of his professional life as a floor walker at Harrods, gave her a few headaches, but gave Lord Towcester even larger ones, as he kept letting the cat out of the bag. Rory provided many funny moments here, well played by David Gow.

The aforementioned fiancée of Lord Towcester, Jill Wyvern, was a nuanced character, certainly Caroline Thompson played her as such. She was down-to-earth in her life as a vet, yet showed great affection for her fiancée. At one stage she broke off the engagement as she felt Towcester had deceived her. But on learning the truth, and that his intentions were honourable after all, she became his loyal supporter and helper, along with Jeeves. A totally believable portrayal.

Ellen, the lugubrious old retainer, meandered slowly about the living room, dusting here, rearranging there. Ruth Wilbraham obviously relished the part!

Policemen often turn up in drawing room comedies, but they are seldom such characters as John Hilder managed to make of Chief Constable Blagden in his short time on stage.

Ian Wilson-Soppitt was tremendous as Captain Biggar, the White Hunter from Kuala Lumpur. Imperious, terrifying (to Lord Towcester), upright, representing all the moral righteousness of those old imperial days. And yet, and yet…….he at one stage became involved in the devious plot to ‘acquire’ Mrs Spottworth’s stunning emerald pendant. So he turned, and yet the thought of the fellows in the Club in Kuala Lumpur, the thought of the duties of a Sahib, brought him back to the true British values in the end. And then of course, there were his awakening feelings towards Mrs Spottsworth herself. Ian Wilson-Soppitt brought out all the nuances in his character, and the necessary humour, so well. A very fine character study.

Talking of fine character studies, Susie Gow gave us the perfect Mrs Spottsworth, the rich American widow. Wide-eyed with delight at first sight of Towcester Abbey and SO impressed to be mixing with British High Society, she was absolutely in her element on discovering that the Abbey was actually haunted! She made a play for Captain Biggar as soon as she saw him of course, and her twinkly, flirtatious, touchy-feely overtures to him were a delight to watch. Caught in the curtain ambush, mistaken for the Captain, her dishevelled, shocked, yet oddly delighted reaction, for she had imagined this to have been some kind of interference of a supernatural kind, was fabulous! And she danced a brilliant Charleston too!

Congratulations then to Sara Wilson-Soppitt on her fine direction of this convoluted and hilarious piece, and to her great cast. I’m sure it is not only me who is still chuckling about it now! A great evening’s entertainment, theatre at its best.

Pauline Surrey


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