By: Oscar Wilde
Directed by: Michael Lunney
Venue: Connaught Theatre
Date: Tuesday 16th October 2007
This seems to be the year for multiple productions. This production was very enjoyable, and gave us a good balanced version of the play. The two men attempting to be Ernest were well acted, with good reactions between them. Ernest/Jack was indeed very earnest, and even aspired to noble poses once or twice, while Algernon was an aristocratic ne’er-do-well, with charm and not much else. The ladies of the Ernest fan club were a bit more muted, but still well performed, with Cicely showing less sophistication in her manner, and Gwendolyn being all elegance.
Lady Bracknell was a good match for these youngsters. She carried her part off with authority, and dealt with the handbag monster by being so shocked she couldn’t even speak the word – Ernest/Jack had to do it for her. This worked very well. She recovered sufficiently after Miss Prism’s revelations to actually speak the word for Ernest later on. Miss Prism was a bit underpowered, and Tony Britton as the Reverend Chasuble appeared to be having difficulty remembering his lines fluently, which slowed things up a bit in their scenes. Still, they got across the fanning of tiny embers of love very well, and Miss Prism’s confession was still good fun. Merriman and Lane were played by the same actor, who gave Lane a predilection for sherry, and Merriman a shaking hand and a touch of deafness. The shaking hand was useful when pouring tea, and also when Jack and Algernon had a hand-gripping contest, leading them to do their own hand-shaking till Merriman appeared.
The set was simple but effective, with a doorway at the rear, and two disconnected walls or balustrades either side. The backdrop gave us the setting each time, with the London scene being particularly impressive. The costumes were excellent, especially Lady Bracknell’s blue travelling number.
I was impressed with the detail in the production. When Algernon is chatting with his aunt on one sofa, Ernest/Jack and Gwendolyn are on the other, sitting as if they don’t have a thing to say to each other, and making it quite clear that they’re longing for a rampant clinch as soon as possible. They tried sneaking their hands together, but Lady Bracknell was ever alert, and soon stopped their canoodling. There were various examples of this extra working, and I had to be on my toes to get it all. No nodding off tonight! Algernon’s piano playing was also very good, in that it was so obviously bad. The first piece I didn’t recognise, but his attempts at The Wedding March were pretty atrocious, scarcely recognisable, and much enjoyed. One of the better productions at the Connaught this year.
© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me