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Our Crack Tongue & Groove
What fresh hell is this?
It’s just been announced that P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster are being brought to the West End stage later this year. What absolute rot!
“Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to speak French.” A quote culled from the novels of P.G. Wodehouse, a comic writer who reached a prose style of such perfection that it has proved quite impossible to translate his works to stage or screen without severe dilution. Take the above line, for instance. An actor may be able to play the role of a hesitant fellow trying to wrap his tongue around the vagaries of the French language, but he could never do justice to the full horror of an Englishman trying to fit in abroad that Wodehouse manages to conjure up. Sure, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie made a decent fist of the Jeeves stories on ITV, but by simply transcribing Wodehouse’s dialogue, and losing his powers of description, you’re ditching 90% of what makes him so funny; it’s like watering down a G&T with not nearly enough G and far too much T. And I fear that this new stage production – starring the usually capable Stephen Mangan and Matthew Macfadyen – will also come a cropper. Wodehouse in the theatre? No! To my mind – and I say this with a sagacious look which announces that I am about to say something of dazzling profundity - it’s almost as daft as trying to stage something by Shakespeare… RM