Actor Bernard Cuffling returns to take a bow as the hero-bulter Jeeves in the latest production at the Chemainus Theatre Festival which completes the trilogy of adaptations from humourist P.G. Wodehouse.
Set in the Manhattan, NY in the 1930s, the eclectic duo of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves have escaped their upper-class Edwardian frivolity and find comic adventures in the Big Apple.
Wooster’s friend Nigel Bingham-Binkersteth, or Binkey (played by Colin A. Doyle), has fallen in love with actress Ruby LeRoy (played by Robyn Wallis) but told her he is Wooster, ultimately forcing the two men to switch identities.
“It’s beautifully set up and it’s the zaniness of the characters and the names…. it’s Wodehouse loving the roaring 20s and 30s,” Cuffling said. “A typical farce where there’s so many things going on at once and then one thing tips it over.”
The performance will also be actor Kirk Smith’s first opportunity playing Wooster in Chemainus, taking over from Warren Bain.
“A friend of mine when I was in high school was really into them (Jeeves and Wooster) and gave me one of the stories for a birthday present one time but I didn’t have a lot of experience with them. I just knew of the stories,” Smith said.
He and Cuffling have worked together previously in the production of History Boys, where the two played school teachers.
The total collection in Wodehouse’s Jeeves series includes 35 short stories and 10 novels.
Jeeves Takes a Bow, directed by Mark DuMez, was adapted for the stage by New York playwright Margaret Raether and follows the Chemainus productions of Jeeves in Bloom and Jeeves Intervenes.
Cuffling said he enjoys playing the ‘straight’ rather than the comedic character in Jeeves but describes the role as a “real disciplined workout.”
“I have to be incredibly disciplined in looks because if I make a gesture in my face, it can come down like a house of cards,” he said.
“What Jeeves has to be, he has to be absolutely in a way bland to start with and then he can become animated. That’s tough because you want to jump in and join the farce that’s going on.”
Original cast members of the Jeeves trilogy were surprised at the immediate success of the first play three years ago and the Wodehouse following is likened to the popular following of Jane Austen.
“What I like about it is his juxiposing of comedy. To have Bertie who believes he can do everything, but of course Jeeves does everything,” Cuffling said. “It’s the fun of the perfect butler and the complete ninkcompoop.”
Kate Dion-Richard also plays hopeful girlfriend Vivienne Duckworth and grew up as a fan of the legendary British comedy-drama series of the 1990s.
“I definitely have that in my mind. But, starting this, I found my character is a newer character, so I got to have fun with that,” she said.
Jeeves Takes A Bow is an encore performance that regular supporters Chemainus theatre will once again adore, but the writing means those who are new to Jeeves and Wooster can still appreciate the hilarious antics.
“We’re hoping that straight off the top with the witty dialogue and the action that those who’ve not seen the plays before will get the relationships straight away,” Cuffling said. “Those who have seen them get the set up with Jeeves and Wooster.”
Jeeves Takes a Bow opens Friday at the Chemainus Theatre Festival and runs through to Sept. 30. To reserve your tickets visit chemainustheatre.ca online or call 1-800-565-7738.