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A CurtainUp London Review
The Importance of Being Earnest
We get an introductory scene and some jokes as the cucumber sandwiches keep getting eaten by person or persons unknown, when they are needed in a scene. Some of the jokes are age related. Algie turns up in bright red sneakers which clash with his Edwardian outfit. Martin Jarvis' Jack Worthing grabs a cushion before getting down on aged knees to propose to Gwendolen (Cheri Lungi).
Some of this production reminds of Michael Frayn's Noises Off which shows the scenes behind a repertory production of a farce and indeed the many dalliances of Dickie, the character playing Algernon (Nigel Havers) start to show up in the company a little like those of the director in Noises Off.
The problem with this approach is that the creaky, flat acting needed to convey the amateur nature of the company also detracts from the resulting play. I enjoyed the second act much more than the first when Sian Phillips comes into her own as a magnificent Lady Bracknell. Sian Phillips' actor is Lavinia Spelman, the owner of the magnificent set of a luxurious country house decorated and furnished in "Arts and Crafts" fixtures and furnishings designed by William Dudley and the real star of the show. The wooden panelling and stained glass predominate and the French windows open to reveal a profusion of shrubs outside. The stairs and gallery would not look out of place in Liberty's department store.
Rosalind Ayres trembles as Miss Prism but both she and Lady Bracknell and Niall Buggy as the vicar are within their realistic ages. I personally think these actors would have been better persuading a playwright to write a work for them rather than "Bowlderising" Wilde's play. Lucy Bailey does her best with a difficult brief. There is a spoof programme listing the biographies of the Bunbury players and reporting on their visit to the Cadogan where they drank Perrier Jouet champagne.
It appears we are not finished with Wilde's play as mid 2015 David Suchet is due to play the formidable Lady Bracknell.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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