Never one to shy away from a challenge, new director Shari Newton brings us this delightful piece of PG Wodehouse, adapted from the last of his Psmith stories, which was also the second of his stories concerning BlandingsCastle.
Not wanting to be the least experienced member of the production team, she also recruited a crew who, in the main, had never tried a hand at their particular task before! Fortunately, experienced mentors were on hand to lendtheir experience, calm fears, soothe fevered bows and (hopefully) spend more time than usual in the Five Bells.I would like to point out that even given my lack of recent experience as an audience member, I was not provided with a suitable mentor – however, this proved to be no handicap in the enjoyment of the play.
On being shown to my table by the impeccably dressed staff, I was presented with a bar price list in the form of a contemporary magazine, in addition to my programme. To those carpers who bemoaned the lack of detail in the programme as to the plot – had they read beyond the price of a glass of rose, they would have noted the relevant society news items in the magazine, especially concerning the bequest of certain diamonds. Still, the play’s the thing, as someone or other may have already written…
The story is a wonderfully silly blend of crusty old duffers, plucky young things, upper class twits, lower class crooks, get – rich quick scheming and mistaken identities, all centred around the efforts of the eponymous Psmith to assist Freddie, the feckless scion of the Emsworth family of Blandings Castle, in finding the wherewithal to marry his girlfriend Phyllis. A convoluted plot to steal and then return a set of priceless diamonds belonging to Freddies great-aunt is further complicated by the arrival of a pair of crooks, also intent on purloining the aforementioned sparklers.
From a technical perspective, all the wonderful dialogue of Wodehouse was crisply (and audibly) delivered, lighting was uniformly good and the costumes, set and props worked seamlessly. The cast played the entire thing straight, which made it even funnier. It would be difficult to pick out a particular highlight in a show filled with laugh-out-loud moments, but the catty verbal sparring between Julia Bull’s Lady Middlewick and Lynda Newton’s Ethelberta Fitzwiggin is a strong contender.
A very enjoyable evening overall, and an excellent training opportunity to expand the available pool of backstage crew talent – jolly well done, chaps.
— Peter Nicholson