THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
by Oscar Wilde.
Stephen Joseph Theatre To 5 January 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm no performance 24, 25 Dec Mat Thu & 28 Dec 1.30pm, Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 5 Jan 2.30pm.
Captioned 3 Jan 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 01723 370541.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 December.
Happy Earnest comedy.
Earnest’s immaculate construction and verbal ingenuity match the perfection with which its author had constructed his life. Then, as it opened in the West End, Oscar Wilde’s world fell apart and the play closed, before being restored as a classic of precision-plotting and linguistic wit.
Whether Wilde’s subsequent life was misfortune or carelessness, his masterpiece needs actors able to give a sense of freedom to crafted sentences that have never even seen a kitchen sink. Then there’s the production history, including that line with its vital plot element, handbagged on film by a leading actress.
Scarborough’s cast clearly know where the punch-line about Jack Worthing’s origins is situated, though at this performance the climactic moment was muddied. A shame, when structure and timing are very material.
Generally, Chris Monks’ cast bring out such contrasts as Algie’s playful agility, Charlie Holloway giving a sense of someone living two steps ahead of the competition, and Simon Bubb’s Jack, an affluent young man about town without his friend’s imaginative freedom from social convention. Straight-backed, subject to shocks and indignation, he seems an elder brother from the start.
There’s an intriguing suggestion of youthful playfulness between Algie and his urbane manservant Lane; Algie listens and laughs at the latter’s comments and there’s a surprising moment when lane propels Jack’s all-important cigarette-case to his employer. Howard Gossington establishes, without caricaturing, the town-servant’s manner with rural retainer Merriman.
Straight-backed and commanding, Naomi Cranston’s Gwendolen is well on the way to becoming like her mother; possibly more like than Lady Bracknell herself. Becky Hindley justifiably stops short of imperious command though she sits too unassertively at the side in act three. Beth Park’s Cecily is clearly influenced by Algie’s manner, already woman enough to look after herself when allowed; her lines on punctuality suggest conscious self-analysis.
Paul Ryan’s Chasuble clearly leads a sheltered life, while, as Prism, Maria Gough is quietly precise in her intelligent characterisation.
Frequent Scarborough designer Jan Bee Brown knows how to create room or garden and a flavour of period through patterns and colouring without over-stuffing the stage. In all, a happy production.
John Worthing: Simon Bubb.
Hon Gwendolen Fairfax: Naomi Cranston.
Lane/Merriman: Howard Gossington.
Miss Prism: Maria Gough.
Lady Bracknell: Becky Hindley.
Algernon Moncrieff: Charlie Holloway.
Cecily Cardew: Beth Park.
Rev Canon Chasuble: Paul Ryan.
Director: Chris Monks.
Designer: Jan Bee Brown.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.