Jeeves is in the House
Ahead of the NCPA show, writer-director David Goodale talks about adapting Wodehouse for the stage
Loved reading PG Wodehouse as you were growing up and still count him as one of your favourite authors? Well, there’s something special in store for you then. The West End production Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense, adapted for theatre by the Goodale Brothers, is going to be staged at the NCPA this month, with cast and crew, as well as original sets, props and wardrobe from the UK. We throw three questions to the writer David Goodale, ahead of the Mumbai performance.
Matthew Carter as Bertie Wooster and Joseph Chance as Jeeves in the play Perfect Nonsense
Q. Your play follows two of the most loved characters in comedy fiction. How have you managed to meet audience expectation?
A. Wodehouse draws his characters so clearly that most readers are left with a pretty clear idea of how they might be in the flesh. Whilst everybody’s perception may be slightly different, I think one knows instinctively whether particular actors are able to embody the essential characteristics. Casting has been a really important element, and we’ve been incredibly lucky to find actors who fit seamlessly into the roles. The conceit of Perfect Nonsense is that Bertie Wooster, having been told by one of his pals what a brilliant raconteur he is, has decided to hire a theatre and tell one of his stories in the form of a one-man show. Jeeves, realising that his master’s plan is destined to failure, has made other arrangements... This is a device of our own making, but we feel fairly confident that Wodehouse himself would have approved.
Q. What were the things you kept in mind while writing this play?
A. Most Wodehouse devotees revel in his ludicrously complex plots combined with his wonderful use of language, but that doesn’t always translate to the stage. Readers may find themselves laughing out loud at lines in a book that would only raise a wry smile when delivered by an actor on stage. We’ve found that, although theatre audiences clearly love Wodehouse’s witty prose, the biggest laughs often come from the physical comedy. What we’ve aimed to do is create a theatrical farce that stays true to the spirit of Wodehouse and retain his best lines.
Q. Which is more difficult — writing a comedy, or directing one?
A. I don’t really think that one is more difficult than the other. We were blessed by the fact that our source material was so rich, but editing it threw up loads of problems - particularly given the complexity of the plots. What can you leave out and what must you keep in?
When we first started rehearsing the show for London’s West End we began to realise that things that seemed really funny on the page didn’t always work on the stage.
It also became clear that the show would was going to involve lots of quick costume changes and that there wasn’t always enough dialogue to cover these.
Sean Foley, our original director, would send us out of the rehearsal room saying that he wanted five more lines to follow on seamlessly from what was in the original script, that they should not only be funny, but should also sound exactly like Wodehouse ..... and that he needed them in ten minutes! Sean had a very clear vision of how to make our script work on stage and I have taken all that on board when directing our current cast.
WHERE: Jamshed Bhabha Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
WHEN: Jan 8-10; 4 pm and 8 pm
ENTRY: Rs 2004 – Rs 8015
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