The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
National Archives - 13 April 2019
The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde
Q2 Players, National Archives Theatre
Review by Matthew Grierson
The Importance of Being Earnest is, at face value, a play about appearances. It relishes them and the fictions woven around them – the Bunburyism that is Algie’s creed – rather than the realities they conceal. To paraphrase another wit: sincerity is all that matters, and once you can fake that you’ve got it made. In this respect, Q2’s production of Wilde’s classic comedy works when it keeps up appearances, and suffers when it fails to maintain them.
The confected lives of Jack and Algernon convince as long as one doesn’t linger too long over their absurdities. There is an eagerness to please that evidences the earnestness of the cast. To coin a Wildean apothegm, to play The Importance as a string of funny lines may be a misfortune, but not to play it as a string of funny lines would be careless. And one could hardly in this instance say the lines were immaterial, as they conjured the requisite laughter throughout the audience.
Hugh Cox lights things up from the start, with his perky and expressive Algernon. I’d say he owes something of a debt to Bertie Wooster, only that would be a little anachronistic, and Algie is also quicker on the uptake than Wodehouse’s hero. As Algie’s Aunt Augusta, Tim Williams takes this production down the line of the pantomimic. It’s a brave move, but Williams gives a solid performance, in several senses, anchoring the particular tone of this staging, and he neither milks nor underplays the “handbag”.
In the role of Augusta’s daughter Gwendolen, Rachel Burnham offers a fully crafty portrayal, from which it is hard to take one’s eyes. Equally watchable is Ellie Greenwood as Cecily, confined to the countryside by her guardian but living an imaginary life through her diary …
Read Matthew Grierson’s full review at www.markaspen.com/2019/04/12/earnest-q2
Photography by Simone Germaine Best
Keeping Up Appearances