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Wodehouse in Exile (2013)

Wodehouse in Exile

Wodehouse in Exile, written by Nigel Williams, is a one-off drama.  It was produced by Great Meadow Productions, and broadcast on 25 March 2013 (BBC Four and BBC HD, 9pm).

Before being shown on TV, the programme received its first public screening on 18 March 2013 at the Oxford Literary Festival.

It is available to watch on the BBC iPlayer until 4 April.

Running time: 1 hour and 25 minutes


In Wodehouse in Exile, ZoŽ plays the wife of PG Wodehouse, one of England's most famous comic writers.  Based on real events, the drama charts the couple's experiences during the Second World War, when Wodehouse was held by the Germans in an internment camp.

When Wodehouse agrees, on his release, to broadcast to his American fans via Nazi Radio, the author unwittingly becomes a pawn in the Germans' political schemes.  He is subsequently branded a traitor by the British media and investigated by the British government.

The drama's writer, Nigel Williams, emphasises that Wodehouse in Exile is intended to disprove the theory that its naive title character betrayed his country.  In a recent article for the Daily Mail, Williams concludes that he hopes his 'film means no-one will ever again accuse [Wodehouse] of anything apart from harmless idiocy.'


PG Wodehouse ... Tim Pigott-Smith
Ethel Wodehouse ... ZoŽ Wanamaker
Malcolm Muggeridge ... Julian Rhind-Tutt
Werner Plack ... Richard Dormer
Major Cussen ... Ian McElhinney
Leonora Cazalet ... Flora Montgomery
Peter Cazalet ... Paul Mallon
Arthur Grant ... Robert Cooper
Mackintosh ... Paul Ritter
Schmidt ... Conor Mullen
Thuermer ... Damien Hannaway
Buchelt ... Niall Cusack
Algy ... Simon Coury
Reynolds ... Kevin Trainor
Duff Cooper ... Patrick Fitzsymons
Ethel's driver ... Caolan Byrne


Director: Tim Fywell
Executive Producer: Robert Cooper
Producer: Kate Triggs
Line Producer: Carol Moorhead
Production Designer: Tom McCullagh
Costume Designer: Maggie Donnelley
Cinematographer: Owen McPolin
Film Editor: Emma Oxley
Casting: Georgia Simpson
Art Director: Sara-Jo Baugh


Wodehouse in Exile was filmed in Northern Ireland during late 2012.  Zoe was photographed on-set at Custom House Square, Belfast, by Instagram user colindt.

The programme was originally called An Innocent Abroad, the title was then changed to Wodehouse: An Innocent Abroad, before finally being re-named Wodehouse in Exile.

Appearing as the Wodehouses marks the second time that Zoe and Tim Pigott-Smith have played a married couple.  They previously starred together in the radio comedy-drama series Such Rotten Luck (1989-91) as a husband and wife with a remarkably similar surname to that of their characters in BBC Four's drama: Woodhouse.

Press coverage

In an article for the Daily Mail, 'Wodehouse was no Nazi traitor', Williams emphasises his enthusiasm for the programme: 'As a Wodehouse fan, this is a story that has fascinated me since I first heard it over 30 years ago.'

'We had the good fortune to get Tim Piggot-Smith to agree to play Wodehouse,' he remarks about his production, 'while ZoŽ Wanamaker said she would play the great man's wife Ethel.'

Williams adds: 'What actually happened [to the Wodehouses] was this.  Wodehouse and his wife were living in Le Touquet in Northern France when war broke out and, although they did try to get back to England, the speed of the German advance took them by surprise.

'Wodehouse [...] was taken to an internment camp in Upper Silesia in present-day Poland, while Ethel was put under house arrest.'

The real events on which the drama is based are also examined in two articles from The Independent'BBC to bring PG Wodehouse in from the cold with drama about his time in Nazi internment camp' and 'New PG Wodehouse drama explores how Jeeves writer was used by Nazis'

In another Independent feature, Zoe is interviewed alongside her co-star Tim Pigott-Smith about the Wodehouses' struggle, and notes that PG Wodehouse 'did seem to be totally naive and live in a fantasy world'. 

ZoŽ was interviewed about her part in the programme for the TV Choice website.  'She was outspoken and outrageous, a much more worldly character than her husband,' ZoŽ remarks about Ethel Wodehouse.  She also describes how she prepared to play the role of Ethel with the help of old films and jazz.

Related links

Wodehouse in Exile programme details, clips, and photos - BBC

Wodehouse in Exile programme details - IMDB

Great Meadow Productions

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