An Earnest Attempt At A Wilde Classic
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The Importance of Being Earnest — Wilde’s wonderfully witty, well worn classic that stuck a cucumber sandwich-smeared finger up at the morality plays of his day — can often veer into pantomime in the endless revivals on stage and screen. Sarah Redmond’s production at the Brockley Jack is not an especially adventurous or innovative example, but it’s playful and pacey with a frisson of sexual hysteria.
Wilde’s dazzling dialogue delivers itself, and it’s up to each actor to ride on its coattails or fully inhabit their role, revealing the characters beneath the caricatures. Redmond’s cast embrace the challenge with varying success.
Daniel Hall’s Algernon masticates and machinates with suitable bluster and boyish charm, and his chemistry with the feisty Emily-Rose Clarkson, who emerges in Act 2 as the star of the piece, is enjoyable. Riley Jones’ Jack Worthing, suited and styled like a distractingly modern best man at a cheap wedding, strides about painfully, more constipated than sufficiently colourful.
Harriet Earle’s Lady Bracknell, crowned with an explosion of radioactive feathers, is not quite the ‘monster’ of Worthing’s nightmares. Amusing and accomplished, certainly, but at times physically awkward, seemingly preoccupied with choreography rather than characterisation. Kate Sandison’s brittle, pontificating Prism is excellent, and Daniel Desiano-Plummer’s uke-strumming butler is a highly entertaining, albeit surreal foil to the absurd collection of people he serves.
Presented to the jaded swipe culture of modern society, with a reported decline in weddings and a healthy chance of divorce, Wilde’s cynical quips on marriage and rampant superficiality feel painfully fresh and relevant. This version is respectable and enjoyable, played out on an interactive, Alice in Wonderland styled chequerboard, but it feels a little self conscious on opening night.
The Importance of Being Earnest, The Brockley Jack Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, SE4 2DH. 14 November - 2 December 2017.
Last Updated 20 November 2017