Edward Kirby (John/Jack Worthing) and Henry Pyne (Algernon Montcrieff)  in rehearsal. Picture: Stuart Purfield

The Importance of being Earnest

Malvern Theatres Youth Company


Oscar Wilde’s comic masterpiece is so rich in famous and outrageous lines that it can hardly fail to gather a crowd and to entertain. The young players of Malvern Theatre, directed and supported by the resident professionals, bring their great acting talents to the Forum Theatre this week before going north to the Edinburgh Fringe.

Agatha Christie said ‘Be sure your sin will find you out!’ Both John Worthing and Algernon choose to invent stories and characters to hide their actions and intentions. Wilde hilariously exposes their lies but brings them to a safe and joyous conclusion.

This production has pruned Oscar Wilde’s three-act drama to run without interval. The script loses nothing significant by being slightly abbreviated in this way, but the decision to do this has created a tension however.

The cast deliver the lines at a cracking pace at the expense at times of clarity of diction, and also with the result of losing some of the comic impact of this play which relies heavily on verbal humour and dexterity.

The details of the plot are quite complex and are not easily absorbed at this pace, so the impact relies excessively on the audience being familiar with the play and indeed its lines. This is disappointing and fails to maximise the entertainment value of the piece.

The cast are very talented, many of them training currently at drama schools around the country.

Rhys Harris-Clarke doubles as the butler(s) and Canon Chasuble – he is a natural comic – he was in danger of stealing the show at times.

The girls, Elizabeth Ann Jones (Gwendolen Fairfax), Lexi Henry (Cecile Cardew), Ellie Ricci (Lady Bracknell) and Mia Stevens (Miss Prism) maintained the greatest clarity and timed the comic lines most successfully. Ellie Ricci has considerable presence and delivered lines with great authority. Henry Pyne (as Algernon Montcrieff) and Edward Kirby (John or Jack Worthing) moved well and had some excellent moments of comic physicality. As a cast they achieved the heightened RP accent  very successfully and used the space well.

The design is minimalist – a few items of furniture are all. This helps with a show that is heading off on tour, but does throw the emphasis on the actors, their lines and delivery. It is a shame we felt as though they were in a rush to get through the show rather than savour the rich verbiage and humour of the piece. This felt like a missed opportunity for a talented cast to squeeze the full comic value from a brilliant play.

Tim Crow


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