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What no Wooster?

PUBLISHED: 18:13 12 June 2008 | UPDATED: 17:23 16 August 2010

CONNOISSEURS of PG Wodehouse may have found something slightly wanting in the author s only stage play featuring his famous valet - 1954 s Come On, Jeeves -

CONNOISSEURS of PG Wodehouse may have found something slightly wanting in the author's only stage play featuring his famous valet - 1954's Come On, Jeeves - performed last week at the Erith Playhouse, writes Mark Campbell.

For a start, Jeeves' clueless employer Bertie Wooster was nowhere to be seen, although another character - Bill, the impoverished Earl of Towcester (pronounced 'Toaster') - stood in for him in all but name.

The needlessly complicated plot revolved around the unpromising subject of horse racing.

There were fewer laughs than might be expected, especially during the first act, and Jeeves himself was often sidelined in favour of other, less interesting, characters.

It has often been said (with some truth) that Wodehouse wrote the same book over and over, and this late entry displays all the hallmarks of an author working on autopilot.

It probably doesn't help that the play is co-written with Guy Bolton, further diluting the familiar Wodehouse humour.

Directed by Pamela and Graeme Horner, the cast battled gamely with the material, although a smattering of prompts in the first half made their task even harder.

The pace picked up markedly when Eileen Warner appeared as eccentric American psychic Mrs Spottsworth, combining a larger-than-life performance with an equally outré dress sense.

Also excellent was Ian Humphreys as the Wooster-clone Earl of Towcester, obsessed with selling off the mildewed family home in order to pay off his gambling debts.

Kirsty Duncombe was good as his dungaree-clad fiancée Jill, but Tola Lynskey as Lady Carmoyle seemed entirely overwhelmed by proceedings.

Richard Banks was perhaps a little too restrained to make much impression in the title role, although in fairness his part was severely underwritten. Far from being the driving force of the plot, he was more often reduced to mere bystander.

Steve Padgham was token silly ass Lord Carmoyle, while John Hart was all swagger as the self-titled 'white hunter' Captain Biggar. His seduction scene with Mrs Spottsworth was delightfully funny.

Some quick-fire repartee towards the end helped liven things up, but sadly this was not Wodehouse at his best.

* The next production at the Erith Playhouse is Oliver! by Lionel Bart, from 30 June to 5 July. Tickets: 01322 350345

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