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Birmingham and Leicester
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST: Oscar Wilde
3Star***

Birmingham Rep to 24 September
then to Leicester Curve
Then to The Curve, Leicester
Runs: 2h 20m, one interval
BO (Birmingham): 0121 236 4455
www.birmingham-rep.co.uk

Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 14 09 16

Has its moments, but not quite sure where it's going

Pre-publicity said that this production would be a 'revisioning' of the play. It's slightly puzzling to know why anyone would want to revision this particular work, but such is life. However, the production doesn't do this; it's a standard, even in some aspects slightly old-fashioned, production. It does have a shiny, rather brittle set that has little to do with the play or playing style and some very odd costumes. For Jack's and Gwendolen's first appearances quite ghastly ones. (You have to ask if the designer, Isla Shaw, ever considered for a moment that actors have to wear these garments as clothes.)

The play survives and the humour saves it. Edward Franklin turns in a strong Algernon; he has the trick of making the stylised language sound natural – one of the real challenges in performing Wilde. He has great charm, too, as does Fela Lufadeju as John Worthing. Lufadeju has great energy, but struggles with making the language his own, particularly with the period received pronunciation.

Cathy Tyson is marvellous as Lady Bracknell. She is neither an Edith Evans style gorgon, nor a more modern woman doing her job. She is her own woman. Playing with great truth Tyson gives us a Lady Bracknell who comes across as an arch-conservative, class-obsessed snob of the worst kind. For the first time ever in this play I see elements of the strong social criticisms that Wilde wrote in his other (and in his mind more serious) plays. Tyson is terrific to watch, doing all this and not missing a comic beat.

Nikolai Foster has created a workmanlike production but, while much of the comedy lives, much is lost by this two-dimensional production. He has also allowed some glaring mispronunciations to slip through.

Lane and Merriman: Darren Bennett
Miss Prism: Angela Clerkin
Algernon Moncrieff: Edward Franklin
Dr Chasuble: Dominic Gately
John Worthing: Fela Lufadeju
Gwendolen Fairfax: Martha Mackintosh
Cecily Cardew: Sharan Phull
Lady Bracknell: Cathy Tyson

Director: Nikolai Foster
Designer: Isla Shaw
Lighting Designer: Ben Cracknell
Composer: Dougal Irvine
Sound Designer: Dan Hoole
RTYDS Assistant Director: Julia Thomas
Assistant Designer: Becky-Dee Trevenen
Movement Director: Mel Knott
Voice Coach: Caroline Kilpatrick
Casting: Kay Magson
 
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