The Court Theatre Premieres Roy Smiles' PLUM, 9 - 30 August
Filthy traitor or silly duffer? This is the question at the centre of The Court Theatre's new production Plum, written by Roy Smiles.
Plum brings to the stage the most critical time in the life of popular 20th century writer, humourist and lyricist PG Wodehouse - or Plum as he was known to his friends.
"Wodehouse was then and remains one of the few authors who can make me laugh out loud," says playwright Roy Smiles. "Reading his books in a 1970s Britain scarred with National Front skinheads, strikes, race riots and IRA bombs it was deeply comforting escapism."
Wodehouse is the comic genius behind the Jeeves and Wooster series of novels. He is also credited with having introduced 'situational comedy' to replace the large Broadway musicals with elaborate sets and showgirls.
Although considered quintessentially English in style, Wodehouse's work was particularly popular in America where he spent a large part of his time. In 1934 he moved to France to escape double taxation from British and US authorities. It was here, during 1940, that he was detained by advancing German forces and sent to an internment camp where he remained for several months, writing a 20,000 word novel "Money for Jam" and entertaining fellow internees with his stories.
The following year, prior to of his 60th birthday, Wodehouse was released into the comparative luxury of a Berlin hotel. There he met a 'Hollywood friend', a Nazi propagandist, who suggested he record a series of radio broadcasts for transmission to America, which the Germans wanted to keep out of the war.
When news of the broadcasts reached British ears there was outrage. The British press branded Wodehouse a traitor; his books were taken off the shelves in public libraries; and parliament called in MI5 to investigate.
"Wodehouse was mortified by the fuss his broadcasts from Nazi Germany caused. He was deeply affected and shell shocked by the abiding loathing towards him in Britain for the rest of his life," says Smiles.
Wodehouse has a local connection. The Court Theatre Chief Executive Philip Aldridge relates:
"I called Smiles last year and asked if he had ever considered writing a play about Plum". Roy is a master playwright who has specialised in writing about writers and comedians. His reply was not surprising "He's too nice. There's no meat to his story". "Ahhh" I said, "Well I have just heard a story in New Zealand, here in Christchurch, that might just make you reconsider that..." and I told him a tale told to me by Chris Moore, the Arts Editor of The Press whose father had debriefed Wodehouse at the end of the war. And Roy wrote "Plum".
In his fourth play written for The Court, Roy Smiles mimics the comic genius of PG Wodehouse in a romp through Plum's interrogation paranoia.
Production: Director: Ross Gumbley; Set Design: Julian Southgate; Costume Design: Tina Hutchison-Thomas;
Lighting Design: Giles Tanner; Lighting and Sound Operator: Sean Hawkins/Jo Bunce; Sound Design: Sean Hawkins; Properties: Anneke Bester; Costume Manager: Sarah Douglas; Stage Manager: Shayne Simmons;
Workshop Manager: Nigel Kerr; Production Manager: Mandy Perry; Communications Manager: Wendy Riley; Costume Construction: Sarah Douglas, Tina Hutchison-Thomas, Deborah Moor and Sarah Greenwood;
Set Construction: Nigel Kerr, Maurice Kidd, Richard van den Berg, Richard Daem and Klaus Aberlberger;
Property Assistants: Stella Gardner and Matt Williams.
Show Sponsor: White Tie Catering
To book: phone 03 963 0870 or visit www.courttheatre.org.nz
Show Times: 6:30pm Mon & Thu; 7:30pm Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat; 2:00pm Matine?e Saturday 23 August.
Tickets: $56 - $22
The Court Theatre Media Centre: http://www.courttheatre.org.nz/company/media-centre