THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
by Oscar Wilde.
Old Red Lion Theatre 418 St John Street EC1V 4NJ To 28 January 2012.
Mon–Sat 7.30 pm Mat Sat & 27 Dec 3pm no performance 24-26 Dec.
Runs 2hr One interval
TICKETS: 0844 412 4307.
Review: William Russell 9 December.
Mildly wild about Earnest
This most perfect of comedies gets an interesting treatment in this slick production directed by Henry Filoux-Bennett.
The first thing one notices is there is a cast of only six. What – no Miss Prism, no Canon Chasuble? The second is that several items of modern living suddenly appear, such as an intercom and a mobile phone, and Lane, the butler, has turned into a broad in a split skirt and some sexy plastic. What is going on?
But the anachronisms work nicely in the turn-of-the-last-century setting. The problem with the play is it has become a vehicle for assorted National Treasure Dames to try to lay the ghost of Edith Evans, something few, if any, have managed, and not something likely to happen in a room above a pub, celebrated though this room is.
But getting Algernon and Gwendolen to double as Chasuble and Prism is a great wheeze, even if it requires people to leave the stage who really ought to be there. James McNicholas is a marvellously funny Canon, and Stephanie Lane, one of those actresses in the Joyce Grenfell mould, makes a superb Prism, even if the production rather overdoes her tippling as a joke. Both demonstrate considerable versatility, and are also fine as Algernon and Gwendolen.
Harriet Ballard is a sweetly bitchy Cecily, and Simon Grujich a nicely befuddled Jack sporting a green carnation. As Lady Bracknell Janet Jefferies has a slight tendency to stridency, which she should watch, but she negotiates the famous “handbag” line with skill.
It isn’t the greatest production of the play there has ever been, but it is by no means the worst.
Cecily: Harriet Ballard.
Jack: Simon Grujich.
Lady Bracknell: Janet Jefferies.
Gwendolen: Stephanie Lane.
Algernon: James McNicholas.
Merriman: Nicholas Thompson.
Director: Henry Filoux-Bennett.
Designer/Costume: Katherine Heath.
Lighting: Eoin Furbank.