‘Comforting rather than pulse-quickening’: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST – Brockley Jack Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

Brockley Jack Theatre, London – until 2 December 2017

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing”... In some ways, the notion of mounting a production of Oscar Wilde‘s stalwart comedy The Importance of Being Earnest is a sound one – its effervescent wit remaining evergreen even 120 years after it was written. But equally, the weight of such familiarity – for it is a play that gets consistently put on a lot – means that audiences arrive with certain levels of expectation that can undermine anyone not completely secure in their work.

It’s an issue exacerbated that the fact that there’s not a huge amount that one can do, or that get done, to productions of Wilde’s work – rooted as they are in that specific turn-of-the-century English milieu – to provide the levels of excitement that make them stand out. To wit – its last excursions in the West End relied on a soon-forgotten metatheatrical twist and the stunt casting of David Suchet as Lady Bracknell and neither really succeeded.

Sarah Redmond‘s production for the Brockley Jack thankfully forgoes any such gimmickry with a relatively straightforward interpretation, and if the result is comforting rather than pulse-quickening, well, that’s no bad thing in the end. The standout is Daniel Desiano-Plummer‘s brace of manservants, forever slyly stealing scenes with grimaces or staircase tomfoolery but also playing the troubadour with the inclusion of some gently lovely songs (by Dan Gillingwater) bookending the acts.

Emily-Rose Clarkson‘s vivacious Cecily is the pick of the lovers, a wonderfully vibrant presence alive to the depth of the humour in the writing and she sparks well off of Daniel Hall‘s confident Algernon. Personally, I was less keen on Riley Jones‘ nervy take on Jack, the chemistry with Sophie Mercell‘s Gwendolen not quite as pronounced, but they all settle better into a second half which is great fun.

Harriet Earle‘s take on Lady Bracknell impressively downplays many of the famous lines but doesn’t quite come off with enough domineering haughtiness to merit the fear she inspires in the other characters. Still, it’s a lively enough take on a play which really does bear the repeated viewings.

Ian Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."
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Ian Foster on Twitter
Ian Foster
Since 2003, Ian Foster has been writing reviews of plays, sometimes with a critical element, on his blog Ought to Be Clowns, which has been listed as one of the UK's Top Ten Theatre Blogs by Lastminute.com, Vuelio and Superbreak. He averages more than 350+ shows a year. He says: "Call me a reviewer, a critic or a blogger, and you will apparently put someone or other's nose out of joint! So take it or leave it, essentially this is my theatrical diary, recording everything I go to see at the theatre in London and beyond, and venturing a little into the worlds of music and film/TV where theatrical connections can be made."