I say old chap, this play is a load of nonsense – and it’s absolutely perfect!

Picture: Jamie Craig Photography

Trinity Theatre Club kicks off its run of a play based on the P. G. Wodehouse classic ‘The Code of the Woosters’ tonight (July 19). Helen Thorpe, the director of ‘Perfect Nonsense’ tells Eileen Leahy why audiences will be in for an evening of unbeatable raucous laughs thanks to this wonderful comic farce…


Trinity Theatre Club (TTC) is a vibrant, energetic, amateur theatre company based at Trinity Theatre. It was first established in 1946 as the Tunbridge Wells Drama Club but when Decimus Burton’s Holy Trinity Church was decommissioned in 1977, the Tunbridge Wells Drama Club was at the forefront of the move to convert Trinity into a theatre.

By 1981 the club had established itself as Trinity’s own amateur theatre company and renamed itself the Trinity Theatre Club. Since then it has attained a well-deserved reputation for producing amateur drama to a professional standard.

The group puts on three plays a year and prides itself on ambitious programming, high production values and forging a reputation for excellence.

Recently, TTC has put on a variety of productions including Agatha Christie’s ‘Witness for the Prosecution’, Graham Linehan’s adaptation of ‘The Ladykillers’ and Noel Coward’s ‘Private Lives’.

For its summer production, TTC is taking to the stage with ‘Perfect Nonsense’ – an adaption of the classic P. G. Wodehouse Jeeves & Wooster caper, ‘The Code of the Woosters.’

The show, which runs until July 22, is once again directed by Helen Thorpe, who tells the Times the reason she decided to put on ‘Perfect Nonsense’ is because she has been a fan of P. G. Wodehouse for many years, particularly the much-loved Jeeves and Wooster stories.

“It’s silliness at its absolute best, with the classic straight character digging the accident-prone, comic one out of sticky situations,” she laughs, before explaining that this particular adaptation, which is by the Goodale brothers was first performed at Richmond Theatre in 2013.

“A year later it won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. It’s easy to see why, as the play has all the bonkers antics you would expect from a Wodehouse story, with general mayhem and an array of hilarious characters. It’s the perfect summer, feel-good production.”

If you’re not familiar with the play’s plot then Helen reveals that it is a classic play-within-a-play scenario.

“It revolves around Bertie Wooster, who has decided to stage a one-man show about his recent experiences at a country house. As he is starting the show, he realises he needs help telling the story and enlists his valet Jeeves to assist, together with Seppings, the elderly butler of his dear Aunt Dahlia. In addition to narrating, Bertie plays himself in the story. Jeeves and Seppings each play multiple characters, both male and female, leading to rapid-paced antics and a number of problems arising, which Jeeves steps in and manages to solve – almost seamlessly!

“In brief, Seppings plays Sir Watkyn Bassett, an imposing silver collector who, as a magistrate, once fined Bertie five pounds for stealing a policeman’s helmet as a prank. In the story, Bertie’s uncle is also a silver collector and both he and Bassett are after the same silver cow creamer, however, Bassett manages to acquire it by underhand means. Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia tells him to go and steal it, threatening to withhold her brilliant chef’s cooking if he refuses. At the same time a rift occurs between Bertie’s friend Gussie and Gussie’s fiancée Madeline, who is Sir Watkyn’s daughter. Bertie is nervous of Sir Watkyn and his intimidating sidekick Spode, but somehow needs to obtain the treasured cow-creamer. Meanwhile, Sir Watkyn’s niece, Stiffy Byng is scheming to get her uncle’s approval to marry a penniless curate with whom she has fallen in love, whilst fending off a feud with Constable Oates over an incident with her dog.”

Phew! So far, so complicated I say…

“Well you’ll be pleased to hear all the storylines do collide and chaos ensues, both in the story Bertie is narrating and the play as it is being performed, but Jeeves is there to save the day and makes sure all ends well,” Helen assures me.

“Most people know about Bertie Wooster, the amiable young man-about-town, regularly rescued from the consequences of his idiocy by the benign interference of his trusty valet Jeeves. But in ‘Perfect Nonsense’ we are introduced to a whole new group of characters, each bonkers in their own right.”

“Seppings is Aunt Dahlia’s doddery old butler, set in his ways, and a martyr to tradition. Aunt Dahlia is a much-loved but imposing aunt with a loud-speaking voice who moves like a galleon wherever she goes. She is a lady not to be messed with, but she’s also a large genial soul and all-round good egg. Sir Watkyn Bassett, is a magistrate who’s a lovable, blustery old curmudgeon.”

This, adds Helen, is in direct contrast to Bassett’s daughter Madeline whom she describes as ‘an over-sentimental drippy girl.’

“Gussie Fink-Nottle is Bertie’s friend who is engaged to Madeline, a personable, slightly dotty man who is fascinated with the study of newts. Stiffy Byng is Sir Watkyn’s niece and ward, she has a sense of entitlement which means she has no qualms about pulling the wool over her uncle’s eyes.”

Helen says that Roderick Spode is “intimidating and threatening and works closely with Sir Watkyn Bassett. He eventually gets his comeuppance”.

“The characters are as barmy as their names, each bringing another layer of silliness. The play was written with three actors taking on all of the roles, but I have thrown in one more actor which adds a sprinkling more mayhem!”

In terms of what Helen thinks audiences will enjoy most about seeing ‘Perfect Nonsense’ she says it will be the traditional ‘Commedia dell’arte’ aspect of the piece.

“It’s a joyous combination of physical comedy and farce, with relatable characters, who will all be dressed in wonderful, period costume. With an element of silliness emphasising the characters’ quirky foibles.”

Helen says the audiences will have “a spiffing ride” as the story takes them through a fast-paced, boisterous adventure, all carried by the inimitable Bertie and his trio of actors.

“The quick changes are all slick and hilarious, all of which will take place on stage – the audiences really are in for a spiffing ride! The set will be the big surprise for them, too as it will not be our usual reproduction of a country house…”

Helen states that as the play is very demanding, both mentally and physically, she is very fortunate to be working with four actors, whom she describes as being “brilliant”.

“All of them are brilliant and bring their own silliness to the production. Three of them are well known to Trinity audiences and one is new to the Trinity stage. We have had great fun rehearsing and everyone is excited to share this crazy show with Tunbridge Wells!”

Book tickets on www.trinitytheatre.net or call the box office on 01892 678 678.

Dates: Wednesday 19 July to Saturday July 22, with matinees on Friday 22 and Saturday 22.

There are special rates for schools, the opening night, matinees and for the Friends of Trinity.

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