This was another romp involving Jeeves and Bertie Wooster dating from the mid-1970s, when Richard Briers and Michael Hordern played the two leading roles. Vocally speaking Briers resembled an eager little terrier, ever-ready to help people yet perpetually landing in one scrape or another. Hordern remained impassive throughout as he rescued his employer while carefully feathering his own nest both materially and financially. To attract Bertie’s attention, he quietly cleared his throat (“Ahem!”); if his employer did not respond, Jeeves would continue clearing his throat. As with many of Hordern’s performances on film, television and radio, his Jeeves was a quiet, understated characterization, which nonetheless left us in no doubt of his ability to dictate Bertie’s life.
The action in Simon Brett‘s production was narrated by Bertie himself, who treated his listeners as if they were his friends at the Drones Club, enjoying a good story while sipping their Pimm’s. We were invited to sympathize with him, as he recalled his various (mis-)adventures, while enjoying the various ways in which Jeeves rescued him. We could also enjoy the way the two of them talked with one another: Jeeves employed an elaborate – some might say long-winded – form of discourse, full of polysyllabic words and sentences with multiple subordinate clauses. Bertie translated them into his peculiar form of dialect, combining slang with comic Wodehousian metaphors. He resembled a perpetual schoolboy enjoying jolly japes in a fundamentally benevolent world; Jeeves, on the other hand, resembled a kindly uncle, shaking his head or occasionally sucking through his teeth in exasperation at his employer’s outlandish behaviour.
The story itself resembled a series of variations on a theme – the desire of Bertie’s various university friends and/or acquaintances to find a suitable partner, contrasted with Bertie’s desire to remain single. The plot comprised a series of japes, such as being rude to one’s elders, or using a joke salt-shaker to try and break the ice between Boko Fittleworth (Jonathan Cecil) and Uncle Percy (Peter Woodthorpe). At the same time young rakes like Bertie and Boko feared most authority-figures, including their contemporary Stilton Cheesewright (Michael Kilgarriff), who now worked as the village police officer. Such behaviour reinforced the sense that Joy in the Morning was nothing more than a story involving overgrown schoolboys enjoying themselves, while at the same time doing their best to escape censure. Wodehouse himself thoroughly enjoyed his time as a pupil at Dulwich College; from Chris Miller‘s adaptation it seemed perfectly clear that he had simply transposed many of his experiences into fictional form.