Jeeves Live!. Martin Jarvis. Copyright: Jarvis and Ayres Productions.

Martin Jarvis

Radio Times review

Martin Jarvis pulls off another one-man, multi-voiced spectacular at Cheltenham, bringing life to Richmal Crompton's naughtiest of schoolboys, William. He's voiced these short stories many times before, but to perform one faultlessly in front of a live audience is a true reflection of his thespian skills.

It is a recipe for both disaster and hilarity when William and his gang, the Outlaws, are asked to look after a baby. No sooner do they have one infant under their charge than they end up with a further two under their "care". The sequence at a baby show is sublime. When asked by the organiser what illnesses the "triplets" have had, William replies "lumbago and gout"!

Jane Anderson, Radio Times, 23rd March 2014

William Brown is confused. Some literary expert has been lecturing class 3A about a writer called Shakespeare and a cove called Bacon who stole all his work and sometimes went by the name of Ham. Or Eggs.

Martin Jarvis delivers a live performance of one of Richmal Crompton's finest outings for William, which ends in him delivering his own version of the "To be or not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet. So what if the words are not in the right order or, indeed, actual words?

It's William's moment in the spotlight and one of the funniest things on the radio this fortnight.

Jane Anderson, Radio Times, 23rd December 2012

PG Wodehouse's Uncle Fred In The Springtime was as replete as Twelfth Night with characters busy at impersonation and improbable plots designed to deliver love. Each performance was a gem of eccentric humour including Alfred Molina as Fred, director Martin Jarvis as Lord Emsworth and Patricia Hodge as his sister, 'a fiend in human shape'. As the new on the block says every other minute on The Voice: "It's dope."

Moira Petty, The Stage, 25th April 2012

Giving the job of the titular outlaw to Outnumbered's Daniel Roche, who basically already is William Brown in everything but name, was a stroke of casting genius. He has the perfect naughty face for hiding in bushes, firing a bow and arrow, and he just was William when he stomped around the Botts' garden with a sullen expression and a pair of fairy wings, while Violet Elizabeth commanded him to "kith me or I'll cwy".

Simon Nye's charming mini-series set the story of the middle-class Brown family and the nouveau riche Botts in the Fifties and Martin Jarvis's voiceover was as gentle as William was roughy-toughy.

One gripe. The gender politics are unbelievably retrograde. Girls are fluffy, silly, emotionally manipulative nightmares. Boys are outdoorsy, inquisitive bullies. As Outnumbered has taught us, boys and girls can be all things. And they are equally annoying.

Chitra Ramaswamy, The Scotsman, 4th January 2011

Clumsiness can be very funny indeed in the right hands, but there's something about badly simulated incompetence that kills comedy like a sledgehammer to the temple. There were a couple of notable examples yesterday, first in CBBC's new version of Just William (which featured a particularly egregious example of wobbly moped riding).

Just William was a good deal more bearable, coming with the recommendation of Daniel Roche in the title role (he also played the Williamesque younger son in Outnumbered), Simon Nye writing the script and Martin Jarvis doing the voiceover narration, as if they were knowingly passing the baton from one generation of Crompton interpreters to the next. The original stories, remarkably, spanned nearly 50 years of British social history, so you can pretty much take your pick of period. Here they have opted for the Fifties, which can certainly find textual sanction in the canon, but still feels slightly wrong. The world William inhabits - of irate gamekeepers and vicars and tea-parties - is solidly anchored in the Twenties, and begins to look a little hollow and unpersuasive when updated.

That's hardly likely to worry its target audience though, which Nye clearly feels may include a few nostalgic older viewers. The script, perfectly functional when the children were talking, seemed to perk up a little when they disappeared - even finding room for an amorous little exchange between Mr and Mrs Brown. The excellent Rebecca Front plays Mrs Brown and Caroline Quentin takes the role of Mrs Bott, salient here because it was the episode in which William first encounters Violet Elizabeth Bott, a simpering confection of tulle and ringlets with the lockjaw grip of a saltwater crocodile.

For an adult the laughs didn't come from the sight of angry gamekeepers stopped in their tracks by a muddy puddle they could easily step across (more ersatz incompetence), but the sound of Mrs Bott trying to get her aitches in the right place, or the attempted recovery of Mr Brown after he's precipitously answered "yes" to her question "Do I look like a panda?" "It's our favourite of all the bears," he adds placatingly.

Incidentally, I don't know why it's assumed that children have the interpretive equivalent of myopia when it comes to facial expressions, but - with a few honourable exceptions - all the acting here is wildly over-amplified, as it all too often is in comedies for children.

Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent, 29th December 2010

Outnumbered's bloodthirsty Ben is a William for our times, so the casting of actor Daniel Roche, so brilliant as the violence-obsessed middle child in the hit BBC1 sitcom, is perfect. The sublime Martin Jarvis, who is William to so many of us, thanks to his peerless readings of Richmal Crompton's tales on Radio 4, narrates a series of four stories (daily until New Year's Eve). Here William and the Outlaws first encounter insufferable Violet Elizabeth Bott, the be-ribboned, lisping brat who manipulates everyone with her threats to "thcweam and thcweam and thcweam until I'm thick". Warren Clarke and, particularly, Caroline Quentin have a whale of a time as Violet Elizabeth's vulgar, nouveau riche parents (dad is the Bott's Digestive Sauce magnate), while Rebecca Front and Daniel Ryan are sweetly forbearing as William's mum and dad. It's aimed at kids, but adults will have fun, too, if only as they look back fondly on a world where children could play outside for hours on end and the sun always seemed to shine.

Alison Graham, Radio Times, 28th December 2010

This is the fourth time Richmal Compton's larger-than-life schoolboy has been cut down to size for the small screen (previous William Browns famously include a scabby-kneed Dennis Waterman - he could be so bad for you), and some might argue these stories actually work best on the radio, c/o the peerless readings of Martin Jarvis - who, in a best-of-both-worlds scenario, also intermittently narrates this new 1950s-set adaptation from Simon Nye, which does lack a certain fizz. Outnumbered's Daniel Roche plays the scowling scamp, tonight encountering Violet Elizabeth Bott.

Ali Catterall, The Guardian, 20th December 2010