Writer: Oscar Wilde
Director: Bryan Hodgson
The Importance of Being Earnest is a timeless classic, performed so regularly that to be of note it must either be brilliant or bonkers. This incarnation is a bit of both, and all the better for it.
We begin with the premise that the Battersea Amateur Dramatic Society’s bus has been held up in traffic, meaning none of the cast has made it. In true ‘the show must go on’ style it befalls upon the stage manager and the producer to save the day and very quickly hilarity ensues.
It’s a great pantomime in a similar mould to one of Mischief Theatre’s shows that go wrong, and there are some genuinely brilliant comic moments in it.
Ryan Bennet and Aidan Harkins play every character in the show between them – with play being the operative word. They do so with seemingly infinite energy and commitment, flipping back and forth between characters with great delight. They manage to find a great variety in their performance despite playing essentially the same joke throughout the show, and it’s a testament to their performance and the direction (by Bryan Hodgson) that it never gets boring.
For a fringe play, the production values were excellent. The set was wonderfully detailed, the costumes were excellent, and coupled with a seamless sound and lighting design, the package is far beyond that which you’d typically expect.
It must be said though, that this will not appeal to an Oscar Wilde purist. The intricacy of the original text is sometimes missed, and the speed at which the show is played means the beautifully subtle moments in the script are also sometimes lost. However, this show is not intended to be a faithful reproduction, but instead is a bold retelling of a story, which will undoubtedly appeal to a modern audience.
There are moments in the first act that could have been a little tighter, but the second is much better, and the third is better still. If we’re being picky, the intervals were a little longer than necessary, but that really is picking holes in what was otherwise a really good show.
Originally performed at the Barn Theatre, Cirencester, it’s transferred to the Turbine Theatre in Battersea for a ten-day run through until 29th February. If you have a penchant for the absurd, or just keen to see a quirky take on a comedy classic, then you won’t be disappointed.
Runs until 29 February 2020