earnest cast

Picture: Greg Veit  

The Importance of Being Earnest?

Coventry Belgrade


Oscar Wilde is either revolving in his grave or rocking with laughter at this interpretation of his most wonderful and well-known play. The question mark is all important and indicates that this is not for purists.

This is more for the Play That Goes Wrong type aficionados of whom there were a fair few in the audience.

It is certainly a risky business. The director Simon Slough (Tom Bulpett) leads the rump of the cast, some of whom have either already left for better jobs, got drunk, lost their voice, and more and substituted them with some outstanding members of the audience playing random roles.

 You know what they say about children and animals – well, amateurs belong there too! Chaos plays a big role.

At one stage, there are three Earnests (Brendan Barclay among them), two Lady Bracknells (Lucy Trodd and Amy Cooke-Hodgson), a missing Cecily and a drunken and jilted Gwendolen (Trynity Silk). Apart from that …

The story, and it appeared that the only people who didn’t know the story were selected to play the parts, is convoluted at best. Earnest Worthing is Jack in the country and Earnest in town, has been lost in a handbag by the doughty Miss Prism – (Rhys Tees and others).

His wish to marry Gwendolen is not to her mother Lady Bracknell’s liking. Jack/Earnest’s ward Cecily Cardew, pretty and only just 18, is courted by Algernon Moncrief (Guido Garcia Lueches) who poses as brother Earnest to win her affections.

I was in two minds about this production, though I confess to having seen it countless times where quite a lot can go wrong unintentionally. This was very funny.

A one-man swordfight scene for Algernon, Miss Prism as a sadistic schoolmarm with metre-long wooden ruler as weapon and a malevolent grin, Josh (Benn Mann) as overworked prop man mopping up spills and taking over the stage when chaos overwhelmed.

This is Mischief Night where misrule is order of the day/night and the audience had the upper hand in how things ended. The latecomer Earnest (Brendan Barclay) is given short shrift when he offers belatedly to tell the story properly. And it’s hats off to the unsuspecting audience members who carried the production in their capable hands. Directed by Simon Paris, Earnest will continue in ernest to 04-11-23.

Jane Howard


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