THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
by Oscar Wilde
by Oscar Wilde
Photos: Graham Follett
Tue 5 - Sat 9 April 2016 at 7.30pm
The Playhouse Theatre, Clare Street, Northampton NN1 3JA
CAST & CREW
John Worthing Josh Redding
Algernon Moncrieff Robin Armstrong
Rev Chasuble Tony Janney
Lane Craig Macpherson
Merriman Andrew Major
Lady Bracknell Jan Stoppani
Gwendolen Fairfax Holly Lowe
Cecily Cardew Jade Wright
Miss Prism Elizabeth Allan
Director Rob Kendall
Stage Manager Jof Davies
Assistant Stage Manager Peter Collins
Continuity Lasma Paberza
Scenic Design Rob Kendall
Scenic Construction Mark Mortimer
Costume Pamela Mann, Clare Brittain
Lighting Design Philip Welsh
Box Office Elizabeth Allan
Programme Design Graham Follett
Publicity Tamsyn Payne, Jen Kenny
In Sheridan's The School For Scandal (1777), a principal character refers to: ‘...a set of malicious, prating, prurient gossips, both male and female, who murder characters to kill time, and will rob a young fellow of his good name, before he has years to know the value of it.’
The character goes on to disavow any prejudice that such people might seek to instil in his mind, and in a similar spirit, in contemplating Oscar Wilde’s play, dated 1895 and the Masque production of 2016, one is determined to eschew malignancy (although one may express some criticism in due course).
This was an evening of pure delight – excellent characterisation, tasteful settings and furniture, and a wealth of decorative art-work, with well-managed set-changes.
'Witty and pithy'
The ladies, without exception, were alluring, the gentlemen witty, pithy and uncannily prescient with regard to the reactions of others when under stress.
Making their debut with Masque were Jade Wright as Cecily and Andrew Major as Merriman. Jan Stoppani’s stage presence ensured a fearsome Lady Bracknell and she was ably supported by Holly Lowe as Gwendolen.
A scene from The Importance of Being EarnestElizabeth Allan played Mis Prism and Tony Janney’s mastery of classical allusions was evident in the role of Dr. Chasuble.
John Worthing was played with panache by Josh Redding (a master of telling aside) and Robin Armstrong clearly relished the role of Algernon Moncrieff with comedic assistance from Craig Macpherson as his manservant, Lane.
Skilfully directed by Rob Kendall this play exemplified the capacity for hard work in all departments – wardrobe, lighting, stage-management and sound, in order to bring it to fruition.
Bearing in mind my initial renunciation of any malign intent, the one potentially serious – albeit intermittent – fault (shared, I fear, by the cast in general and here recorded for possible future attention) was a lack of vocal projection with – even in the context of The Playhouse ‘cockpit’ is required if ‘conversation fade’ is not to occur beyond the first four rows of the stalls.
My overall judgement was that I had witnessed a thoroughly enjoyable ensemble production fo a classic comedy of manners – of which the Masque and its hosts can be proud.
The Importance of Being Earnest begins in quite a realist atmosphere.
The characters behave and talk in a languid conscious manner of their day.
They are witty, cultured, idle and weathy.
Although the world of leisured society of the 1890s seems far distant from us, this classic play has lost none of its sparkle.
The formidable Lady Bracknell and the dubious origins of the ‘handbag’, the two girls in search of a husband called ‘Earnest’ and the two men who tried to become ‘Earnest’, all add to the farcical confusion in the process.
Masque Theatre's production is directed by Masque member Rob Kendall, whose shows for the group include The Lion in Winter (2015), Becket (2014), Troilus and Cressida (2014), Margot (2013), Nicholas Nickleby (2012), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (2012), Romeo and Juliet (2011) and (2001), Great Expectations (2010) The Cherry Orchard (2010), A Midsummer Night's Dream (2009), Trainspotting (2008), Mother Courage And Her Children (2007), Twelfth Night (2005), Bent (2004), Hell Cab (2004), Murder in the Cathedral (2002), A View From The Bridge (2002), Entertaining Mr Sloane (2000), East (1998), A Streetcar Named Desire (1997) and Antony and Cleopatra (1996)