THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST: Oscar Wilde
Birmingham Rep at Birmingham Old Rep
In rep with Travesties till 22 October
Runs: 2h 15m, one interval
Review: Rod Dungate 22 September 2011
Style wins a Pyrrhic victory
There is a strong sense of the relationships between actors in this production; not surprising since they are working on this in tandem with TRAVESTIES. Oddly, though, there isn’t a strong enough sense of the relationship between the characters; there’s a tendency for lines (particularly the most famous ones) to be spoken at each other rather than to each other. While the production is always intelligent there is a tendency for style to drown out the life o.f the piece.
As a result a lot of humour is lost with the acting company pushing hard to fill the gap. Matthew Douglas and Tom Davey (Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing) give an impression of combatants rather than friends and begin to wear us down.
Roger Ringrose and Abigail McKern (Chasuble and Prism) do not fall into this trap – their performances are relaxed and their relationship a delightful surprise. Emerald O’Hanrahan is a charmingly naive and sparky Cecily and creates a most enjoyable contrast with Emily Bowker’s Gwendolen – who shows marked signs of being a chip off the old block(ess).
Nick Caldecott creates Lady Bracknell. I can see why you’d cast this as a drag role (for the doubling with TRAVESTIES); but this does little to enhance the quality of the play itself, nor reveal anything new. Caldecott
brings great qualities to his creation and is eminently watchable. Despite this stirling work, however, the casting puts the interpretation of the role back 10 or 15 years.
Giles Taylor brings in a fine double as both Lane and Merriman – saving the best till last.
Gwendolen: Emily Bowker
Lady Bracknell: Nick Caldecott
John Worthing: Tom Davey
Algernon Moncrieff: Matthew Douglas
Mis sPrism: Abigail McKern
Cecily Cardew: Emerald O’Hanrahan
Rev Canon Chasuble: Roger Ringrose
Lane / Merriman: Giles Taylor
Director: Philip Wilson
Designer: Colin Falconer
Lighting Designer: Simon Bond
Composer: Paul Englishby
Sound Designer: Dan Hoole
Associate Director: Louise Hill
Casting Director: Kay Magson
Magic Consultant: Richard Pinner
Voice / Dialect Coach: Joe Windley
Movement: Etta Muirfitt