Excerpted from Radio Reviews: Antony and Cleopatra; Blood Count; Ring for Jeeves
The Stage, 23 April 2014
In the annals of great couples, Bertie Wooster and his indefatigable butler Jeeves certainly figure even if its dynamics are less about symbiosis and more about damage limitation. But what’s this? Jeeves without Wooster? 'Ring for Jeeves' features the white-gloved flunkey without his witless master. It is not death that has parted them but economics. Wooster has gone off to a school to learn how aristocrats can fend for themselves. (PG Wodehouse’s only novel without Wooster was published in 1953).
Martin Jarvis is Jeeves, (whom he performed just over a decade ago on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical 'By Jeeves') and like his other great character, Richmal Crompton’s William Brown, he brings to it a delicious irony, which hums just below the surface, making it all the more comical. Directed by Rosalind Ayres and adapted by Archie Scottney, the two-part drama fields a host of larger-than-life retired captains and indigent lords, marshalled by capable women (Joanne Whalley and Moira Quirk). Rufus Sewell is hilariously high-pitched and wheezy as the Earl’s brother-in-law and Ian Ogilvy is the floridly outraged Cuthbert Biggar. Jeeves bounces off this motley crew as he attempts to curtail the illegal bookmaking activities of the earl (Jamie Bamber) to whom he has been seconded in Wooster’s absence. It’s a jolly romp but Jeeves without Wooster is like Laurel without Hardy or Ant without Dec. Only half the fun.