This play was not only a laugh, but was excellently thought-out and executed. It was visually appealing and exciting - I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. I'm keen to see what Theatre Group comes up with next!
The Importance of Being Earnest is a well-known and well-loved play by many. Its charming comedy can often be missed by actors, especially those unfamiliar with the play. However, for SUSU’s Theatre Group this was most certainly not the case! There was clear attention to comedic detail made not only by the cast but the directors, Phil Hoare and Katherine Quinn who, despite admitting their casts’ natural comedic talent in the programme, did a great job in nurturing and guiding scenes to make sure they didn’t go too over-the-top. A clear aid to keeping even the more monotonous, important scenes light were Lane and Merriman, played by Sam Pegg. Often having a smaller part means stage time is overly packed with acting but Sam delivered both of his parts well, keeping them funny and to-the-point.
I would like to make a special mention to the scenery and lighting throughout the production; from the moment I stepped into the theatre the mood was set, and decorations were particularly effective within the middle section of the show, in the garden. The lighting of this show was not overly ambitious, it was executed nicely and drew our attention as an audience to the right place at the right time without being obtrusive to the action. Props were used effectively and not overdone, as each scene with minimal furniture and backdrop was successfully used by the characters, and we were all easily immersed into the drama.
The first, and longest part of Wilde’s play is always in danger of becoming tiresome, although it is punctuated with smaller jokes which in this production were incorporated effortlessly. It is important that actors are clear and memorable in order to set the scene, and make characters and their relationships clear. Theatre Group definitely achieved this; all lines were spoken clearly and precisely, comedy accentuated where necessary and delivered naturally. Imogen King’s Lady Bracknell especially stuck with me after this play. Her characterisation was strong, and Imogen embodied her very assuredly. Harry Seager (Jack Worthing) and Jasper Marshall (Algy Moncrieff) handled the long and somewhat wordy beginning beautifully. They were consistently clear, funny and expressive in their characters and built a good start to the drama. Well done to Jasper for managing to both eat cucumber sandwiches and enunciate clearly! The only gripe I have is that occasionally Millie Pike, who played Gwendolyn Fairfax sometimes rushed her words and as a result was not easy to understand. It is important to mention though that this wasn’t a problem that continued throughout the play. Millie portrayed Gwendolyn fluently and was pleasant to watch throughout.
In the second half of the show, the audience was warmed up to laugh, as they had been rather quiet during the first part of the show. It was in this part that we were introduced to Cecily Cardew (Emily Dennis). Personally, I have to say that Cecily was the star of the show. She was (effortlessly) very funny and played superbly with the rest of the cast. This part of the play was confidently delivered and polished from the whole cast. Miss Prism (Natalia May) and Rev. Canon Chasuble (Jake Collyer) were excellently played and memorable, despite being smaller parts. I felt they had been really nurtured and explored by both the directors and actors. I enjoyed watching them together. I would like to highlight the light attitude Jake infallibly brought to every scene, it brought some calm to somewhat calamitous portions of the play’s story. He was a joy to watch. Lots of laughs and fun were had by all in this middle section at Jack’s country home, not to mention some lovely muffins.
At the end of the play, none of the characters overwhelmed each other as I had worried they might. They complimented each other nicely, knowing when to step back and allow each to relay their part while still supporting admirably. I especially noticed that Miss Prism’s emotions were well presented in this part, and not disruptive to her lines. This made the overall effect of her shameful revelation even better. Once again, the comedy was exceptionally well handled, reaching a crescendo with the narrative. The ending of the play was heartfelt and received gladly by the audience.
Overall, The Importance of Being Earnest was a thoroughly enjoyable production. Colour coded costumes were a great choice to separate characters and added to the ‘amateur dramatic’ but modern charm of the play. The actors used their somewhat limited space fruitfully, and there was some fun interaction with the audience. It was a fabulous production, and I look forward to the next!
The Importance of Being Earnest was performed at The Annex Theatre from January 29th to February 1st 2020.