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Perfect Nonsense!

I had a ringside seat to witness this rib-tickling modern english play staged in Bengaluru.  Selected episodes from the 2001 PGW-paperback ‘Jeeves & Wooster Omnibus’ were staged at the St Johns National Academy auditorium located in John Nagar, Bengaluru.

‘Perfect Nonsense’ began  with an episode in which Bertie Wooster wants to do a favor to Aunt Dahlia, but gets ‘caught in the act’ so to speak, and also gets labeled a thief when trying to examine in daylight an antique silver jug, by taking it out from the store.

The famous antique silver jug (also known as the cow-creamer,) that Bertie took out from the store  needed only to be ‘sneered at and pronounced modern dutch’ in order to bring down its market value, so Sir Watkyn Bassett CBE (also a magistrate and serving ‘Justice of Peace’) could get the silver jug cheap during his visit, right after Bertie’s visit to the store; this was Aunt Dahlia plan!

You may ask, what’s in it for Aunt Dahlia, Governor of Market Snodsbury Grammar School, also Publisher & Editor of a Magazine?

She would have set the stage right to approach Sir Watkyn Bassett for a donation for her Magazine, ‘My Lady’s Boudoir’ after the ‘old goat’ bought the prized antique cow creamer and artifact cheap from the Snodsbury market store; he would be in a good mood to be approached for a donation… knowing that Sir Watkyn Bassett was miserly when it came to giving donations!

The play gets entwined in knots (knotted bed sheets included,) with the entry of ‘Gussie’ Fink-Nottle, the newt fancier, who is in an advanced stage of research on the ‘love life of tadpoles’ on a full-moon night, examining  live tadpoles in their mating season kept swimming in Sir Watkyn’s bathtub at night after Gussie breaks a water jug full of his research material in their mating season in own bedroom assigned to him at Totleigh Towers!

In addition, Gussie, a visitor to Totleigh Towers, is scared of Sir Roderick, who had previously warned him that he would be- ‘beaten to a jelly pulp’, if he ever brought pearly tears in young Madeline Bassett’s eyes. Gussie often contemplated on jumping down from the ventilator in Bertie’s bedroom using knotted, tied together sheets, from Bertie’s bed. Whenever someone comes looking for Bertie, he would hide under Bertie’s bed to go unnoticed, especially from Roderick’s eyes, who was actually looking for him all over Totleigh Towers to ‘beat him to a jelly pulp’.

By the way, Gussie loved Madeline Bassett, the only daughter of the loaded Sir Watkyn Bassett CBE, of Totleigh Towers, the Bassett ancestral country home. Jeeves, the impeccable ‘Gentleman’s Gentleman’ and Butler of Bertie Wooster,  had described Madeline as “a pretty enough girl in a droopy, blonde, saucer-eyed way, but not the sort of breath-taker that takes the breath”. Elsewhere Jeeves  had described her as “physically in the pin-up class, with blonde hair, attractive curves, and all the fixings.” But Jeeves also thought that Madeline was not suitable match for Bertie Wooster.

Aunt Dahlia thought otherwise. Aunt Dahlia thought that Bertie, the rich bachelor, would get refined in courtship, got finally settled in life, if he (Bertie) were to woo and court Madeline Bassett, and not give her up to be wooed by ‘Gussie’ Fink Nottle.

Gussie is near-sighted, wore thick eyeglasses, was a nutty researcher whom Madeline loved dearly… calling him ‘my pumpkin’. But Madeline also kept Bertie guessing… telling him he (Bertie) would be her ‘standby suitor’ and a lady’s gentleman’, just in case, the magistrate in Sir Watkyn would not approve of Gussie, because he (Gussie) is ‘penniless’.

They are all visiting Totleigh Towers where Madeline lives with her father, Sir Watkyn Bassett, the ill-tempered magistrate, and collector of silver antiques.

Stephenie (Stiffy) Byng, a vivacious young female, and, Sir Watkyn’s ward (and, ‘most attractive one’, for bachelor’s to woo, according to Jeeves,) also lives in Sir Watkyn’s ancestral home, the Totleigh Towers, by the lake.

This ‘Perfect Nonsense’ play also brings, in a well enacted episode, the vivacious Stephanie Byng who tempts Bertie to steal the local policeman’s helmet on boat race night… because that policeman enraged her sensitive poodle when on his beat… whistling and riding his bicycle while passing the lake near Totleigh Towers, the ancestral country house of the Bassetts.

Stephenie steals the local policeman’s helmet kept by his side… unnoticed by the policeman… when he was engrossed in watching the racing boats ‘go by’ on the lake. She then hides the helmet in Bertie’s bedroom urging him to take the blame himself for stealing the helmet making thereby a watertight case ‘against rich and unreliable suitors, the likes of Bertie’ in the eyes of Sir Watkyn Bassett, especially, since the magistrate had previously ‘caught him red-handed’ when the bungling Bertie practically tipped over the store door step to inspect the cow creamer in broad daylight!

By her muddled logic, Stephanie believes that when Bertie, the rich and well-dressed one, admits he is indeed the culprit behind the missing helmet of the local policeman who comes to complain to the magistrate about it, all other potential rich suitors would fall low in the eyes of her Uncle, the magistrate, and it would be right time to announce that she wants to marry Herold Pinker, whom she loved next to her own heart!

Herold Pinker (‘stinker pinker’ per Bertie, his old school mate,) is the curate at Market Snodsbury Church, whom Jeeves calls- ‘very clumsy, but someone who played rugby for Oxford and England’. Stephanie refers to him in awe as an example of ‘Muscular Christianity’… but does not have the nerve to mention her secret love for Herold, thinking that her uncle, Sir Watkyn Bassett, would not approve the ‘penniless Herold Pinker’ as a proper suitor for her.

All these nerve-wracking situations get finally resolved by the brilliant plan of Jeeves…Bertie’s Butler and a gentleman’s gentleman… who learns all about the secret of Sir Roderick Spode, a towering personality, a well known nerve-specialist (and also, uncle to young Stephanie) visibly roaming about in Totleigh Towers, inside and out, to be certain that no suitor for the buoyant and bubbly Stephanie broke her heart, especially on a moonlit night.

Strict enforcer of discipline, Sir Roderick Spode, finally gives his nod for Stephanie and Herold ‘tying the knots’ rejecting the gentleman Bertie Wooster who is charmed enough by the vivacious Stephanie Byng to agree to attempt stealing of the local policeman’s helmet.

Bertie Wooster had once removed a fly caught in Stephanie’s eyes by putting his hand under her chin to do it right. This innocent act of removing a fly from Stephanie’s eyes was noticed by Madeline Bassett from a distance… making her believe… that Bertie could be in love with Stephanie, the bubbly young ward and a niece of Sir Watkyn Bassett.

The final act in the play leads to a logical conclusion after Bertie Wooster tells Spode… ‘I know all about Eulalie’ (a catchy phrase in Jeeves plan;) with Gussie held in midair having jumped out from Bertie bedroom ventilator, by the strength of the knotted and tied together sheets taken out from Bertie’s bed when Sir Roderick visited Bertie’s room looking for Gussie to beat him to a ‘jully pulp’ for wooing Stephie.

‘I know all about Eulalie’, the magic phrase, uttered in the nick of time (… by the way, bungling Bertie, known to stammer from childhood, almost forgets that phrase…) to unnerve the nerve specialist, puts a magical stopper to his fiery exuberance, thereby saving Gussie from ‘being beaten to a jelly pulp,’ by the menacing Sir Roderick Spode, the 7th Earl of Sidcup.

Footnote.
[*Eulalie is the brand name of a line of female lingerie with which Roderick Spode was once associated as a designer before he became the 7th Earl of Sidcup! So a mere mention of that name would make that towering personality go pale and shrink in size and stature!]

Quotable Quote:

Because, Bertie Wooster bungled on ‘sneering at the cow-creamer’ Aunt Dahlia did not get donation from Sir Watkyn Bassett.

[Aunt Dahlia to Bertie Wooster]
‘To look at you, one would think you were just an ordinary sort of amiable idiot–certifiable, perhaps, but quite harmless. Yet, in reality, you are worse as scourge than the Black Death. I tell you, Bertie, when I contemplate you I seem to come up against all the underlying sorrow and horror of life with such a thud that I thought as much. Well, it needed buttis. I don’t see how things could possibly be worse than they are, but no doubt you will succeed in making them so. Your genius and insight will find the way. Carryon, Bertie. Yes, carryon. I am past caring now. I shall even find a faint interest in seeing into what darker and profounder abysses of hell you can plunge Go to it lad.. I remember years ago, when you were in your cradle, being left alone with you one day and you nearly swallowed your rubber comforter and started turning purple. And I, ass that I was, took it out and saved your life. Let me tell you, young Bertie, it will go very hard with you if you ever swallow a rubber comforter again when only I am by to aid.”―P.G.Wodehouse

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Suresh Rao

Mellowed out and enlightened septuagenarian. Tech savvy. Social writing is just a pastime to kill time. I keep contributing to several developmental projects in the area of engineering education, IT and Healthcare projects launched by my kith and kin. I am too lazy to write a book, 'cause I think my life itself is a book! I am also at www.facebook.com/sureshnrao
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Navneet Bakshi
Navneet Bakshi(@bakshink)
1 year ago
Reply to  Suresh Rao

Haha- That’s a big question. She’s too big for such games. Lord Emsworth can’t let her participate in such risky games 🙂

RAMARAO Garimella
1 year ago

Any episode of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves is bound to be hilarious, but you captured the essence of the book and presented it in a fascinating post. Three cheers.

Navneet Bakshi
Navneet Bakshi(@bakshink)
1 year ago

Thanks a lot for coming here Sureshji and a very warm welcome too. Usha Suryamani, who is already here would love your first entry because she is no less a fan of PG Woodehouse. I don’t know if I read his books again today, whether I would be able to keep track of all the characters with my forgetfulness having reached an advanced stage but he was a master creator of humor who didn’t get due because of his left leaning or anti-monarchy stance. A fantastic writer, he was. I don’t know if one can enjoy the play without having read the book before going to see it enacted but his books were/are thoroughly enjoyable and one can read them again and again.

Navneet Bakshi
Navneet Bakshi(@bakshink)
1 year ago
Reply to  Suresh Rao

Hello Sureshji- In fact, I was going to mention about Ushaji’s love and excellence in weaving stories in the backdrop of PG Wodehouses’ works and she very well plants herself very well in the setting, but then in the flow of the thought I forgot to mention about her, but she is already here and has contributed some posts. I am sure, she will visit soon and would love to read your post and it may fire up her imagination for creating another episode of her version of PG Wodehouse stories.

Arun Mehra
Arun Mehra(@arunmehra)
1 year ago
Reply to  Suresh Rao

Wodehouse is as refined in his humour as Jeeves is in his (well intentioned) machinations. Leaving Bertie “out in the cold”, as the odd man out!

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