Saturday, 15 August 2015

The Importance of Being Earnest - Smock Alley

Smock Alley presents Oscar Wilde's 'trivial comedy for serious people': The Importance of Being Earnest. Directed by Kate Canning, this production takes Earnest from the lavish period sets viewers of The Gate's productions of Wilde's works would associate with his works, and places it in an expressionistic garden; other than that, everything is as expected. Period dress, Wilde's paradoxes and epigrams, cucumber sandwiches etc. If you have seen a production of Earnest before you will not have many surprises here. That being said, the plays (mostly young) cast deal competently with the material with a good sense of timing and emoting which is benefited by the intimacy of Smock Alley's main stage. Aislinn O' Byrne brings the most notable performance here with her squeaky Cecily, who, at times, appears on the verge of bursting into a psychotic rage.

I was partly disappointed by such a straight-forward adaptation, taking the set prior to the actors arrival as something of a promise for the unexpected, but really, this is more of an issue with the source material rather than anything else. Oscar Wilde's showcases of shallowness aren't especially flexible. They don't say much more than 'these are very very shallow people' thus they don't really provide much opportunity to experiment;  they're shallow and deeply rooted in the time in which they were written.  The quality of Wilde's  plays that maintains its popularity, and is maintained here, is the humour. The quickness of the wit. It may not matter from which mouth the epigrams come from because, simply, they're very funny. Wilde's charm simply oozes through The Importance of Being Earnest, to the point that it negates reinterpretation or revaluation. Being able to witness that witty shadow of Wilde that looms over performances of his plays become the reason to see them, rather than to see if anything new will be brought to the table.

 That being said, this is a perfectly competent performance; despite that irrepressible shadow of Wilde.  

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