By Jeeves

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich


> Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich

By Jeeves? No, by Jimminy, not really, but by PG Wodehouse with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and some pretty drastic rearrangement by Alan Ayckbourn.

A four-piece band under Paul Winter provides the backing, sometimes just a little too loudly, and Fran Saunders turns noises off into a series of comic effects in a production by John Mangan.

On comes the cast of the familiar nincompoops to play out their comically confusing chronicles of the chinless classes. Meantime, Jeeves, who enjoys long words like these, looks on in judgment. Played by David Lambert, he is stayed and unflappable, seeing through everybody as he reorganises the plot after each upset. He also stage-manages the play to create an extra layer of irony.

Trevor Burton is Bertie Wooster. A dab hand at patter songs, he has, too, a nice line in wide-eyed despair as events inevitably catch up with him time and again.

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As Finknottle, Christian de l'Argy has just the right manner to go with a name that Wodehouse would have died for. Trevor Markworth with his crushing handshake embodies American values by sheer physique, while Eric Mawer's Sir Watkyn creates an impressive figure whether in his Norfolk jacket or his nightshirt.

The girls have less to do, but they are all quite pretty enough to explain why they drive all the young gentlemen potty, and Melissa Sampson reveals a particularly attractive singing voice.

By Jeeves is a musical play with a lot of fun, revisiting a period that passed decades ago. It adds dimensions by simply refusing to take itself seriously and sending up its own conventions. The result is sheer entertainment.

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