Quotations from P G Wodehouse are copyright of, and reprinted by permission of, the Trustees of the Wodehouse Estate © 2019 The P G Wodehouse Society (UK)

The P G Wodehouse Society (UK)

Former President of the P G Wodehouse Society (UK)

A message from Richard Briers

Many years ago, when I started out on my career as a young and very callow actor, I was lucky enough to get into RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), where I very soon learned that some people are born naturals and know how to walk, talk and hold themselves. I realised I didn’t know anything at all and had to learn everything. But it didn’t do me any harm and, like the Empress of Blandings, I even won a Silver Medal – though that was probably for ‘effort’ rather than for skill (and certainly not for fatness). From then on I was very, very lucky and I have rarely been out of work, which is about the best anyone can hope for.

As any actor will tell you – if he’s honest, that is – a successful play or film depends not on the actors but on a good script. Without a good script you are lost, and although playing Eustace Hignett in the film The Girl on the Boat in 1961 was tremendous fun, the words were definitely not Wodehouse, though the basic plot was his. Later on, the great radio director and producer David Hatch gathered a First Eleven cast together to record Joy in the Morning, Right Ho, Jeeves, and Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves for the BBC. The cast included Michael Hordern as Jeeves, and I was Bertie Wooster. We were well supported by the likes of John Le Mesurier and our own Society Patron Jonathan Cecil. In due course these plays were transferred onto audiotapes, and they are still enjoyed today. As Simon Callow once said, it is only when you hear Wodehouse spoken aloud that you realise what a brilliant master of language he was.

Then in 1995 I was lucky enough to play Gally Threepwood in Heavy Weather – and that was a cinch. Wodehouse always treated the characters in his novels as though they were actors on stage and, playing that part, I knew from Wodehouse’s writing exactly how Gally felt and how he should act and react. As I said, a cinch.

I don’t normally undertake commitments outside acting, but when I was asked to become president of the newly-formed P G Wodehouse Society (UK) in 1997, I felt I couldn’t refuse. And I’m glad I didn’t. They’ve always got something on the go – such as the splendid Week With Wodehouse they organised in 2007, which brought enthusiasts from as far afield as Russia, Japan and America to visit Wodehouse sites around the country, including the real Blandings and a reverential visit to a champion Berkshire sow. Their magazine Wooster Sauce always has something to interest and amuse; they paid for a Wodehouse book to be done in Braille; they have members from all over the world, of whom a surprising number somehow just ‘happen to be passing through’ the UK when Society cricket matches or other events take place; and they sponsor the prize for the Berkshire Pig Breeders’ Champion of Champions, in honour of the Empress of Blandings.

The Society’s social events are delightful. For example, every two years they organise a superb shindig of a dinner which Ann and I make a point of attending. At every dinner the entertainment gets better and better – and to hear Wodehouse’s great-grandchildren, both professionals, singing and speaking his words is an unforgettable experience. It is jolly good fun being President of The P G Wodehouse Society (UK) – and having fun is what the Society is all about.