The Reviews Hub Score
Writer: Oscar Wilde
Director: Aylin Bozok
Two men lay on a faded, stained carpet, presumably dead. Harpsichord music begins playing, the men rise and begin doing an interpretive mirror dance, and a sinister looking maid (Nea Corner) recites Shakespeare: “To be or not to be, that is the question.”
She then walks slowly towards the audience, an Annabelle doll style grin on her face. Just when we begin panicking, thinking we’re watching the wrong play, the lights come up and Algernon (Duncan Rowe) and John Worthing (Louis Pottier Arniaud) start performing the first act of The Importance of Being Earnest.
When John Worthing is in the country, he lives a sensible life with his ward, Cecily (Glykeria Dimou). In London he is called Earnest: he is part of London society and he is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax (Pinar Ogun). When Algernon wants to get out of having dinner with his aunt (or doesn’t want people to know where he really is), he pretends to visit a sick friend in the country called ‘Mr Bunbery’.
Both have been getting away with their double lives for some time, but things take a turn when Algernon visits John’s country home in the guise of being his younger brother Earnest.
The space includes a green sofa, a faded carpet, a table with several white flowers and a black backdrop, which isn’t particularly ornate but doesn’t take away from the play. The characters are dressed in gothic attire: Cecily in particular wears a black tutu skirt, a long dark trench coat and a corset style top. The gothic aesthetic – and the incorporation of crow sounds – feels a bit random, but it works.
This production of The Importance of Being Earnest is fairly faithful to the script, but adds the use of smart phones and short bursts of interpretive dance to mix things up. Duncan (Algernon) messes up his lines a bit and several of the actors at various points appear to need a script prompt – whether this was intentional or not remains to be seen. Despite this, Duncan’s portrayal of his petulant, overly indulgent character is believable. Glykeria Dimou does a good job of Cecily and makes her uncomfortably relatable.
Lane/Merriman (Nea Corner) appears as an almost Puck-like figure whose mystical hand gestures and all knowing, creepy eyes seem to suggest she is controlling the ridiculous aristocracy from behind the scenes. This is an interesting idea, but it does seem a bit random at times: at one point, Merriman is doing yoga alongside the actors and occasionally breathing the name “Earnest”. It feels like the cast overacts at times, or tries to make things funnier by playing up the sexual innuendos. The audience is laughing throughout so it does work, but at times it feels a bit forced.
This version of The Important of Being Earnest isn’t groundbreaking and sometimes misses the mark, but it is a fun, generally well performed and faithful to the original. The subtitle to this production is #performed by immigrants, and all the cast are immigrants to this country, and English is not their first language. Wilde’s play about origins still has something to say.
Runs until 18 January 2020