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Almost Perfection - especially if you can overlook what's missing
on 5 April 2017
The source material is wonderful, of course. You know that if you are a connoisseur of Plum's works. And the acting here is the top of the heap. Once might even say it is nonpareil. Hordern coughs or sighs and it conveys the emotion to a T of Jeeves dealing with that young hound Bertie, his dissolute friends, menacing acquaintances and coven of chivvying aunts. Briers has just the right amount of innocent goofiness for the role, curious and willing to learn but almost completely devoid of machinery to do so. And the other minor parts are universally well played.
Where then is the fly in the ointment?
Two things - both lack of completeness
1. When broadcast, each episode would be topped by an intro from Bertie, outlining the current imbroglio and often touching on other matters as one of his characteristically amusing asides. Each of these was a gem of sympathetic adaptation and (although slightly repetitive when listened to in one "binge listen") are missed here for every episode apart from the the first i.e., up to 7 helpings of sauce.
2. The Missing series -> Thank You, Jeeves. Now I can certainly speculate as to the reason that it is missing. It is, after all, the book that uses the N-word (and its derivatives) to refer to the personnel of a musical troupe that are staging a banjolele concert, and so are utilized as a plot device to extricate Bertie from the yacht of Mr J. Chichester Clam in blackface. We have now reached the point where such things are verboten even with fair warning, I suppose. Context is all, but I do not suppose that the PC police are any more amused than Police Sergeant Voules was to unearth Bertie for the third time at Wee Nooke to find it lurking in the archives even though it is from a novel written long ago about a world that scarcely had even existed and does not use the offending terms in a derogatory or belittling way. I guess we have to wait until these words can be seen as un-provoking as calling Othello a moor - and thus the quality of the art becomes the only criteria. I just hope that, in a fit of zeal, some functionary does not turn all Gauleiter and destroy the tapes and so they will be re-discovered in a less sensitized age.
Overall though, while these omissions lose it a "star", it is a huge enough portion slice of aural steak and kidney pie to satisfy even Glossop, Tuppy.