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The Importance of Being Earnest

Perth Theatre
Four stars

Don’t be fooled by the Palm Court style pre-show music for Lu Kemp’s pared-down production of Oscar Wilde’s cut-glass classic. The sounds get a whole lot livelier by the end. As indeed do the goings on between Grant O’Rourke and Daniel Cahill’s confirmed bachelors Algernon and Jack - or is it? - and the objects of their affection, Gwendolen and Cecily, brought to posh-frocked life by Caroline Deyga and Amy Kennedy.

A whole lot of town and country planning goes into the dynamic duo’s respective attempts at wooing, as they attempt to lead double lives in order to get their way without being found out. Cecily and Gwendolen, meanwhile, bat out their two-faced politesse through gritted teeth over afternoon tea. They’re not a patch, however, on Lady Bracknell, magnificently embodied here by Karen Dunbar as a fur coat and nae knickers upwardly mobile WAG, whose Kelvinside accent only slips enough to reveal her roots on her revelatory handbag line.

Artifice is everything in Wilde’s play, which Kemp and use as a serious virtue. As Jamie Vartan’s increasingly uncluttered set moves from Algie’s booze-lined pad to leafy English garden, the green screen at the back of the stage suggests anything and everything can be projected onto the ensuing shenanigans. As all bar Dunbar double up as assorted servants and guardians without any attempt to disguise the quick changes afoot, it’s as if the two would-be couples were dress-rehearsing an elaborate game of let’s pretend.

If O’Rourke and Cahill embody the lackaday entitlement of bored toffs at play, their female counterparts form a similar double act of opposites, with Deyga and Kennedy’s Gwendolen and Cecily equally up for fun. As Lady Bracknell, Dunbar is a picture of barely restrained joie de vivre. Judging by the show’s Crackerjack style finale, given half the chance, she’d gladly let her hair down and go wild in town, country and anywhere else that might have her.

The Herald, March 15th 2020

Ends


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