Plum - Naive, Blithering Idiot or Calculating Turncoat?
Paris. 1940. WWII. A hotel room, at a desk, with a typewriter. There sits P.G Wodehouse, or “Plum”, one of Britain’s most comical writers who finds himself in a distinctly unfunny situation.
Having p*ssed off, well, all of England following his release from an internment camp with a series of radio broadcasts designed (by persuasive Germans) to keep America out of the war, Plum is staring down the barrel of an MI5 interrogation.
The question is - naive, blithering idiot or calculating turncoat?
Set in one room for the duration covering a timespan of no more than a day, the delivery of the show rests squarely on the shoulders of the four actors in the cast, leaving nowhere to hide (figuratively, quite a bit of literal hide and seek goes on on stage actually). They pull it off magnificently, there isn’t a dull moment in that hotel room in Paris and the end of the relatively brief running time came far too soon (WBTC may struggle to be succinct, but Roy Smiles does not).
Colin McPhillamy is outstanding as PG Wodehouse, aka “Plum”. Although the show is a comedy (and a very fine one at that), Plum is in deep distress and quite the muddle, but through McPhillamy’s nuanced performance, Plum’s angst deftly navigates the fine line of sympathy generation and humour (everyone enjoys a bit of schadenfreude). Traitor or fool, neither, both - McPhillamy brings a depth to Plum which leaves this virtually impossible to guess.
Laura Hill’s role requires an extensive physical warm-up regime and her character, known simply as Muse, serves as a brilliant offsider to dithering Plum - the pair have a great physicality in their interactions. A hilarious fake drunk and very skilful shape cutter (the Charleston), Hill is stunning as Muse and would have stolen the show if the other cast members hadn’t also been generally ruling at acting and being hilarious. To be fair, this could be said about all four - high fives all round for a generally elite cast. P.S she may have also singlehandedly brought the waistcoat/wide leg pant combo back in vogue.
The Court has been enjoying a stellar run of shows of late and the common factor may well be what is likely to be dubbed "the Roy Snow effect", giving yet another fantastic performance, in the dual role of Major Lamb and Muggeridge, on top of those in Blood Brothers, End of the Rainbow and The Mikado, among others. The Court might want to keep him on, just saying.
Stephen Papps is one of those actors that could read the phone book and have people in hysterics. Which means the clever and extremely witty material (written by Roy Smiles) in his hands is a masterclass in dry comedy (the best kind), leaving you thinking, and possibly exclaiming, oh no he di-dn’t (with appropriate head movement). But oh yes, he did. The scathing wit of acerbic butler Jenks, is an excellent foil to Plum’s other confidant, Muse (the one of the devil may care attitude).
If I had to be stuck in a hotel room I wouldn’t mind being in this one, the set is magnificent down to the last detail (Set Design Julian Southgate and Properties Anneke Bester).
Long story short (like the show itself), go and see Plum. Its hilarious, clever and a must see for anyone who appreciates witty banter and/or heavy drinking.