The Importance of being Earnest

University of Adelaide Theatre Guild - June 2007

The Importance of being Earnest was first performed for the public on February 14, 1895 but the writing still has as much meaning to audiences today as it did then. The story is of friends Algernon and Jack and their pursuit of equally beautiful women Gwendolen and Cecily. Jack wishes to marry Gwendolen, who is Algernon's cousin, but Gwendolen seems to love him only because she believes his name is Earnest. By the same token Algernon wishes to marry Cecily, but she is only interested in him under the pretense that he is her guardian Jack’s infamous brother, also called Earnest. When each of the women discovers their prospective husbands are in fact not named Earnest much trouble and comedy ensues.

The cast performs well as an ensemble but are unfortunately restricted by some poor blocking in a difficult space. There are some standout performances from Marieka Hambledon as Gwendolen and Pam O’grady as Lady Bracknell. Hambledon and O’grady both deliver great intonations, true to the original Wilde scripting. Abby Coleman as Cecily gives an enjoyable performance as too does Norman Athersmith and John Sharpe. David Thring’s interpretation of Jack is energetic, but often played too much as high farce rather than high comedy as the piece was intended. Andrew Lawlor creates a sly Algernon, always playing the situations to his advantage. Lawlor’s accent is superb, but sometimes quite camp, detracting from the strength of the character. Outstanding characterisations are also given by Lindy Lecornu as Miss Prim, Cecily’s governess, and Gary George as Dr Chasuble.

Ole Weibkins set is innovative as usual, but too dark for the genre. The combination of traditional costuming, furniture and language with the abstract painting detracted from the piece.

Oscar Wilde’s writing is so clever and witty that it is almost impossible not to enjoy this production. If you have never had the pleasure of seeing a Wilde play, do yourself a favour and check it out.

Paul Rodda