“With P G Wodehouse, the thing is that there are certain expectations, but I think this is quite different to what people think it is going to be,” John said. “A lot of people are expecting a cosy period comedy, but it is not that at all. It is a cross between P G Wodehouse and Monty Pyton. As I say, it is really quite anarchic. A friend of mine came to see it expecting full-on Fry & Laurie and was quite surprised. I actually play five different characters.”
Obviously the key one is Jeeves, though: “P G Wodehouse said that Jeeves is a god-like creation. He knows everything, and he appears as if by magic in certain situations. He is an all-knowing, all-seeing being!”
John went into the play in London before heading out on tour: “I have spent about ten of the last 30 years in the West End, which is quite a lot really. I have done all sorts of things from musicals to The Ladykillers. I think the West End is doing great at the moment, actually. We were in quite a small theatre with Jeeves & Wooster, but the audiences were great. There seems to be an air of optimism around again, that things are looking up. But with the economy, it was a bit like telling someone they were ill. If you tell them enough times that they are ill, they end up feeling ill!”
John lives just outside London, just coming up for 20 years in the same house.
“I came down and lived in London about 30 years ago. I moved down in 1981 (just after huge success in the film Gregory’s Girl). My agent at the time said if I wished to carry on working, I had to come down to London because that’s where all the castings and all the auditions were. I decided to move down almost without anyone knowing. I remember the bemused faces as I was going away. A friend of mine said ‘I am driving down to London next week. I can give you a lift.’ I said ‘OK’. I put my stuff in his car, not that it was a lot, and that was that, and as we were going, my parents were saying ‘Where are you going?’
“At the time, they were not quite sure, but they came to terms with it. But it was a bit of a shock to the system to find yourself fending for yourself like that. It was quite a steep learning curve. I spent quite a lot of time cooking. I enjoy cooking. For the first couple of years, I was living on tuna fish and sweetcorn, so I thought I had better learn some other recipes!”
Gregory’s Girl possibly opened a few doors: “I got to see people that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, but I have mixed feelings about it. Over the years, I feel I have said everything that I could possibly say about it. People ask me why I am still talking about it. But I am not. It’s just that people still ask me about it. But by the same token, if it was the only thing I had ever done, I would still have been pleased with it.”