Jeves and Wooster
The Lowry, Salford Until tomorrow night
If it really has taken nearly 100 years for PG Wodehouse’s comic duo to reach the stage in this form, then waiting a year or two longer for something closer to the original might not be asking too much.
On its first national tour out of London, where it won a best new comedy award, it arrives as a flattened-out physical farce rather than anything resembling the sublime writing of the author’s stories and novels wrapped around the foppish Wooster and his gentleman’s gentleman Jeeves.
Not for the first time you suspect that in bringing it to the provinces the knockabout comedy has actually been broadened even further in this production.
And once again the Lowry’s main stage auditorium seems too vast for what is essentially a three-man performance. Gaps at either side of the stage set reinforce this feeling that it is being performed at the outer limits of its original design. How much better it might have been staged in the venue’s more intimate Quays theatre?
Especially since it uses an extensive and well-worn back catalogue of theatrical devices that owe much of their pedigree to the days of music hall variety.
No turn is left unstoned here, as John Gordon Sinclair (Jeeves) and James Lance (Wooster) aided by Robert Goodale – who with his brother has adapted the story – quite literally throw themselves into a riotously daft plot.
Only occasionally do you hear some of the rich Wodehouse dialogue and Goodale, especially, becomes increasingly incoherent burdened as he is with playing multiple characters.
This particular extended joke becomes downright wearisome, particularly when stretched over two acts.
Everything could have been better accomplished in 90 minutes flat out.
The best that can be said is that Jeeves & Wooster, in this form, appears to know its audience, even though the energy generated on stage does not always power sufficient laughs from them.