The Importance of Being Earnest
Octagon Theatre Bolton
Albert Halls, Bolton
How to marry the evergreen Victorian comedy with the all-too-appropriate surrounds of the Albert Halls, and avoid it becoming a museum piece?
Easy. Simply accept that the appalling acoustics of this venue rule out most people being able to ever hear Oscar Wilde’s original humour, and instead treat them to a visual spectacle they’ll not forget in a hurry.
Whether knowingly or not, director Suba Das, and movement director Lucy Cullingford, pay homage to the late-lamented Kaos theatre company and serve up an Earnest that is fast, physical and a lot of fun. They may be relying on many in the audience being over-familiar with the plot, and its high-blown humour, but thanks to a suitably energetic cast they deliver a production that manages to be both Wilde and wacky.
It’s a flashy production in more ways than one since Algy (Jack Hardwick) becomes a foppish society photographer, snapping the drawing room antics of his pal Jack (Dean Fagan) and the objects of their devotion Gwendolen (Elizabeth Twells) and Cecily (Melissa Lowe). Gwendolen, especially, lets more than her hair down in a performance that would have seen an actual Victorian venue closed down.
Sprawled across the widescreen platform of the Albert Halls end stage, even the backdrop of the Grand Organ gets to play a part in such uninhibited proceedings!
Several characters come complete with their own walk-down music, with a suitably haughty overture for Lady Bracknell, (a stately Sarah Bell). Vicky Entwistle refracts a lot of fun through the role of Miss Prism, and David Cardy as the Rev Chasuble, and Dan Sheader as factotums Merriman and Lane, add up to a first-class cast.
Each of them races through the narrative to concentrate on the physical fun and comic timing.
Rolling the play’s first two acts into one means the interval is a long time coming, but few here will be complaining about a production that is all about the earnestness of the scene rather than the heard.