The Importance of Being Earnest Overview
Jack Worthing is ‘Ernest’ in town. He wins Gwendolyn’s hand but Gwendolyn declares that she chiefly loves him for his name – Ernest – the name Jack has allotted his non existent brother whose peccadilloes explain his frequent absences from his country home where lives his pretty ward, Cecily. Meanwhile Cecily has decided to marry rake-hell ‘Ernest’ and when Algernon presents himself in this guise, she immediately accepts his smitten proposal. However, through some highly improbable coincidences, all is happily resolved.
My second visit to the Charles Cryer Theatre in a fortnight was another very pleasant evening in the company of Chase Theatre Company. Despite being five to ten minutes late, I was soon back in the sumptuous surroundings of another Chase Theatre front room. I used the word sumptuous at my last visit for The Heiress but this set was no less impressive. Vast amount of period furniture, props and furnishings glistened in what must be the venue with the truest darkness I have been to. Fantastic costumes, each one more glamorous than the last added further authenticity to the piece.
The venue is fantastic for this kind of drama. With the audience so close it feels like armchair television, almost like play for today but it does allow the audience very much to be absorbed into the proceedings. However the waft of Thai food whilst pleasurable at first became a sickly nuisance towards the end. Is the air conditioning linked to the restaurant?
I loved the projection at the centre back of the stage. I saw it at a recent production of ‘Carousel’ at the same venue and immediately fell in love with it. The backdrop actually suited ‘Earnest’ better because it gave better perspective of gardens and a genuine feel of money around the place. On the night I attached there were a couple of technical hitches with the images which detracted from the overall illusion but in principle the effect is definitely a winner. I intend to use something similar in my own next production. The lighting and sound were generally very impressive. Strong bold colours enhanced the production but perhaps the external sound effect could have had a bit more variety. It appeared to be on a loop and there was a very strong sensation of bees in the garden. I do hope you weren’t overcome by them during the week! I did though enjoy the soothing melodies of Greensleeves and Gilbert & Sullivan during the breaks in the action.
Under the direction of Denis Steer, the production was in good hands. Denis created an atmosphere which had Wilde’s taste for extravagance but was well within the bounds of good taste. The action flowed smoothly with all cast members appearing to be well rehearsed. Chase Theatre assembled a strong cast for this production. Amongst the ladies we were entertained by Mo Lawton as the charismatic ‘Lady Bracknell’. Mo was not quite the battleaxe that Lady Bracknell tends be played as but indeed gave her more realism as a normal human being with some depth. Her handbag was well worth waiting for! Claire Gollop brought a calm reassurance to the prissy part of ‘Gwendolin Fairfax’. Gwendolin’s scene with Cecily was amongst the highlights. The juvenile lead if I may call it that, ‘Cecily Cardew’ was played by Melissa Usher. Cecily is Algernon’s ward and is therefore still very naïve but Melissa’s portrayal convinced that she was keen to learn, especially about boys! Betty Crosskey was a matronly Miss Prism offering much need advice. Almost like a favourite aunt.Amongst the men, we had two very different male leads but who worked very effectively together. David Bonner as ‘Algernon Moncreiff’ was eternally scoffing cucumber sandwiches and strolling around with cocksureness. David has great stage presence and delivered his lines with impeccable timing. Barry too as ‘John Worthing’ gave great strength to the part yet appearing vulnerable around Algernon. In some of Barry’s delivery he reminded me at times of David Jason - a compliment, I assure you. From experience I know how tough it can be to direct a production and indeed be part of the action. Denis steer managed to juggle both and gave a wily knowledgeable slant to the role of Dr Chasuble. I have seen both Martin Phillips and Bryan Warner on stage before with a different society but both carried off their respective men in service roles as ‘Merriman’ and ‘Lane’ with unfussy composure.