THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
by Oscar Wilde.
Tour to 24 November 2012.
Runs: 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary: 22 November at Palace Theatre Mansfield.
Well up to LCT’s usual standards. A delight.
The only disappointment – it’s a slight one – in this Importance is the drab-looking set. This does though facilitate proper concentration on the acting, which is excellent.
The Wilde figure surely, Algernon (Ashley Cook), with his excited eyes, is not just degenerate: he’s a major source of epigrams. In contrast Englebert Dolfuss look-alike, Jack/Ernest (Paul Sandys), is less worldly, and shorter. Their opening scene together establishes an admirable pace, which is sustained for the rest of the play. Neither Cook nor Sandys allows that affectation essential to the role to spill over into campery, which is a huge plus.
The ladies too are nicely differentiated. Helen Keeley’s Gwendolen is knowing, sexy and assertive – another Lady Bracknell obviously, within weeks of any marriage. Cecily (Helen Phillips) is younger, blonde and again less worldly.
It’s a question of taste, but arguably Judith Paris (Lady Bracknell) gets that handbag retort wrong. She does however redeem herself with a wonderful “The line is immaterial!” And she’s particularly effective in the super recognition scene at the end.
It would have been pleasing to hear/see Laoisha O’Callaghan making more of her real Irish accent as Miss Prism, and she might actually be too good-looking for the part; but she’s enjoyable all the same. Peter Cadden plays Canon Chasuble splendidly, not as your wet churchman with a fishy-handshake, but as a muscular Christianity man with side-whiskers. Jonathan Ashley’s Lane is all black eyebrows, like an undertaker. His Merriman is a decrepit old retainer with a limp.
London Classic Theatre seems to specialise in gimmick-free presentation of solid, well-established pieces. This production, directed by Michael Cabot, keeps up the good work.
Algernon Moncrieff: Ashley Cook.
Lane/Merriman: Jonathan Ashley.
Jack Worthing: Paul Sandys.
Lady Bracknell: Judith Paris.
Gwendolen Fairfax: Helen Keeley.
Cecily Cardew: Helen Phillips.
Miss Prism: Laoisha O’Callaghan.
Canon Chasuble: Peter Cadden.
Director: Michael Cabot.
Designer: Kerry Bradley.
Lighting: Andy Grange.
Costume: Katja Krzesinska.