Skip to main content

The Importance of Being Earnest

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

There's always been a knowingly subversive heart beyond the seemingly throwaway one-liners of Oscar Wilde's most celebrated dissection of polite society. There are hints of this during the opening of Richard Baron's revival when Gavin Swift's work-shy fop Algernon comes to at the piano following an all-night bender. With tunes blaring from the Victrola and complete strangers puffing on something dubious in the living room, just when you think Viz comic's Raffles The Gentleman Thug might gatecrash, in steps Reece Richardson's lovesick Jack Worthing.

The boys duly indulge in some bantz before Jack makes goo-goo eyes at Emma Odell's deceptively coy Gwendolen on the blind side of Margaret Preece's Lady Bracknell, a buttoned-up gold-digger who used to be a bit of a one. What follows as Algie and Jack embark on an elaborate game of kiss-chase with Gwendolen and Jack's country-dwelling ward Cecily seems to signify an entire class in search of some kind of identity beyond the numerous facades they flit between.

If keeping up appearances is everything here, the prospect of sex broods beneath each layer in a way that set a template for Made in Chelsea. There's an archness to proceedings as Swift and co play interior monologues direct to the audience in a set of winning turns that capture Wilde's recognition of his characters' sheer ridiculousness. In this way, the play winds up its world's occupants with a gleeful abandon that cuts through its respectable veneer without them even realising it. If Wilde is guilty of anything, it's of investing them with more intelligence than they deserve in this timelessly ribald exploration of the unbearable lightness of being.
 
The Herald, July 24th 2015


ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Honourable K.W. Harman: Ltd Ink Corporation

31 Bath Road, Leith Docks, March 17th-20th

In a monumental shipping container down by Leith Docks, a Sex Pistols tribute band is playing Anarchy in the U.K.. on a stage set up in the middle of the room. Either side, various constructions have been built in such a way so viewers can window shop as they promenade from one end of the room to the next, with the holy grail of a bar at either end.

Inbetween, there’s a confession booth and a mock-up of a private detective’s office with assorted documentation of real-life surveillance pinned to the walls. Two people seem to be having a conversation in public as if they're on a chat show. An assault course of smashed windows are perched on the floor like collateral damage of post-chucking out time target practice. A display of distinctively lettered signs originally created by a homeless man in search of a bed for the night are clumped together on placards that seem to be marking out territory or else finding comfort in being together. Opp…

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Scot:Lands 2017

Edinburgh's Hogmanay
Four stars

A sense of place is everything in Scot:Lands. Half the experience of Edinburgh's Hogmanay's now annual tour of the country's diverse array of cultures seen over nine bespoke stages in one global village is the physical journey itself. Scot:Lands too is about how that sense of place interacts with the people who are inspired inspired by that place.

So it was in Nether:Land, where you could see the day in at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with a mixed bag of traditional storytellers and contemporary performance poets such as Jenny Lindsay. The queues beside the Centre's cafe were further enlivened by the gentlest of ceilidhs was ushered in by Mairi Campbell and her band.

For Wig:Land, the grandiloquence of the little seen Signet Library in Parliament Square was transformed into a mini version of the Wigtown Book Festival. While upstairs provided a pop-up performance space where writers including Jessica Fox and Debi Gliori read eithe…