Sheffield taking a peep at TV star Robert in city theatre

Jason Thorpe and Robert Webb in Jeeves and Wooster, Perfect Nonsense. Credit Hugo Glendinning

Jason Thorpe and Robert Webb in Jeeves and Wooster, Perfect Nonsense. Credit Hugo Glendinning

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Peep Show star Robert Webb, one half of comedy duo Mitchell and Webb, is playing one of the classic roles of British comedy, the daft toff Bertie Wooster, on stage in Sheffield.

Bertie was created by novelist PG Wodehouse and his antics were brought to a new audience in the 1990s by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in the TV series Jeeves and Wooster.

Stephen Fry played the valet who spends most of his time getting his master out of ridiculous scrapes in some stately home or another in the 1930s.

It’s Robert’s second time playing Bertie in a new stage adaptation that has been a West End hit: “I did it for 12 weeks last year. It was brilliant fun too. When this tour came up I thought, well why not? I haven’t quite got the part out of my system.”

He added: “It’s genius. Bertie is fantastic and the part is enormous. He’s suddenly standing up and talking to the audience at the top of his voice for round about two hours.

“I get about eight seconds backstage. It feels like you’re on this conveyor belt and the second half goes by so fast. It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours for me.”

Robert added: “You do have to slightly look after yourself. I remember beign quite hoarse after shoutign for twop hours on stage. You don’t want to be getting up weith the kids at 6am after doign a show. In some ways it’s just as well that I’m going on tour!”

He said he was a big fan of the Fry and Laurie TV version but has to appropach the role differently. “On stage it’s a different kettle of fish. On TV you can’t really be that enormous as it would look like you’re in panto.

“Some of the many characters were really going for it and it looks like they are in a completely different show. On stage you can really let rip, so it’s slightly different in that way.”

The plot involves Bertie having to steal a silver cow-shaped cream jug from stately home Totleigh Towers on behalf of one of his eccentric aunts.

He also does a spot of accidental matchmaking and Jeeves, as always, is on hand to rescue his master.

Robert’s first acting experiences go back to being in the famous Footlights university drama group when he was studying at Cambridge.

Footlights members have dominated British comedy for decades and former members include Peter Cook, several of the Monty Python team, Hugh Laurie, Sue Perkins and IT comedy series star Richard Ayoade.

That’s also how he met his comedy partner David Mitchell. Robert said that he went to Cambridge to join Footlights with the idea of finding a comedy partner.

“We did a panto in the Christmas term. I think we made each other laugh.”

Robert said he went to Cambridge with the aim of getting into comedy. “I had to retake my O-levels to get in because you need some quite good ones. I thought as the people I liked watching on TV had gone there I would go to the same place.

“If you don’t want to do stand-up, you need other people to do sketches with. I deliberately went there to find someone to work with.”

After performing with Footlights on the Edinburgh Fringe, the pair got a break working on a BBC Two sketch show called Bruiser.

They found fame with their show That Mitchell and Webb Look and also co-starred in the BBC Two comedy Ambassadors.

Although the pair do a lot of solo work these days, Mitchell and Webb haven’t disappeared, said Robert. He added: “We’re still doing other bits and bobs together.”

Fans of Peep Show can look forward to seeing Robert and David in the ninth and final season some time this year.

Robert said he has has been busy writing it over recent months and they will be recording it this summer.

Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense also stars Jason Thorpe as Jeeves and Christopher Ryan, who was Mike the cool guy in The Young Ones, as Seppings.

The show comes to Sheffield Lyceum from February 16 to 21. Box office: at the Crucible, online at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or call 0114 249 6000.