Wodehouse in Wonderland

William Humble
Cahoots Theatre Company Ltd in association with Jamie Clark Theatre
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

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Robert Daws as P G Wodehouse Credit: Pamela Raith
Robert Daws as P G Wodehouse Credit: Pamela Raith
Robert Daws as P G Wodehouse Credit: Pamela Raith

Wodehouse in Wonderland is at first attempt a tricky play to describe; part memoir and part monologue, it features a sprinkling of cabaret and a deceptively meandering plot. The setting, however, firmly establishes the action in P G Wodehouse’s study and for two acts the audience glimpse into life of a man with “nothing to say”.

To bring such a famous novelist to life in the guise of a one-man show is no mean feat, and when you add songs, accents, vignettes and dramatic readings into the mix, the script calls for an actor of considerable experience, range and a warmth that will ensure the audience relax and feel at home from the off. Robert Daws brings all of this in spades and with a twinkle in his eye due to a very thin fourth wall.

We join Wodehouse as he’s attempting to write but is instead constantly interrupted by his wife, daughter, dogs and a persistent young American biographer. The sound effects and Daw’s reactions create a complete world for the play, the audience complicit in the physical absence of said characters.

We learn of his childhood, his passion for American soap operas, his fondness for martinis after a bath and his love of routine. Through letters, we find out about his latest ideas for Bertie Wooster and through chats with his biographer, we relive his moments of humiliation and disappointment.

There’s plenty of ‘stiff upper lip’, self-deprecating humour on display but there’s plenty of depth too—however much Wodehouse the man may have denied it.

At least passing familiarity with his writing is useful but, with such vivid descriptions of the work and cameos from characters peppering the script, it’d be easy to get up to speed—particularly following a lively extract of Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey.

Lee Newby’s comfortable and elegant set design lifts this production from the realms of black-box solo shows and Robin Herford’s understated but precise direction ensures a prompt but easily flowing pace. William Humble’s multi-layered and illustrative script is in safe hands with Daws who performs with a conversational tone.

Wodehouse in Wonderland is a treat of a piece of theatre with plenty of comedy and wry observations but, despite a general veneer of silliness, there are moments of great pathos, lending the production more than a few moments of reflection.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston

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