Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Importance of Being Earnest


Perth Theatre
3 stars
The circle of fancy chairs that adorn the stage beneath a displaced 
triangle of giant red roses that hang above them give off the air of a 
Victorian séance in waiting rather than a well-heeled bachelor pad. 
There's plenty of romantic life elsewhere, however,  in London Classic 
Theatre's touring revival of Oscar Wilde's classic romp of reinvention 
and acquired identity between town and country. Here young rakes 
Algernon and Jack's wooing of Cecily and Gwendolen becomes more an 
accidental if life-changing voyage of personal self-discovery than 
anything.

Michael Cabot's well turned out production, which stopped off for a 
one-night stand at Perth Festival prior to a week of Scottish dates, 
plays considerably with the politics of scale. Much of this is down to 
Paul Sandys' diminutive Jack, who here becomes more clown-like than 
dashing. As an orphan, his insecurity further allows Helen Keeley's 
taller and quasi-predatory Lady Bracknell in waiting, Gwendolen, to 
appear as though she could simply pop him into her pocket if she so 
chose to. This is in sharp contrast to the more straight-ahead form of 
courtship provided by Harry Livingstone's Algernon and Felicity 
Houlbrooke's Cecily.

Such exchanges as those between Jack and Gwendolen make for a much more 
heightened and modern Earnest than many heritage edition Wildes, even 
if sometimes they distract from the polished wit and wisdom of epigrams 
dressed up as dialogue. The fact that the show is all but stolen by 
Richard Stamp as Merriman, the increasingly perturbed looking butler, 
speaks volumes about a play in which its youthful lead quartet are 
merely trying identities on for size until they realise who they are.

The Herald, May 23rd 2013


ends

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