Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

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Neil Jacks as Algernon, Stephen Green as the Rev Chasuble and Steve Hayes as John Worthing

The Importance of Being Earnest

Richmond Ward Productions

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall


WITH many companies choosing to perform Oscar Wilde’s well loved classic in recent times, it is a difficult task to bring something new or fresh to the stage.

However, Richmond Ward Productions (RWP) made a commendable effort to do just that. The clever use of both the stage and the hall floor for the performance gave some added dimension to the action which moved along at pace. 

The interaction and dialogue between Jack (Steve Halady bracknellyes) and Algernon (Neil Jacks) was of particular note. The perfectly cast pair delivered Wilde’s witty retorts with impeccable diction, perfect timing and strong synergy.  

There were fine performances from Catherine Keats as Gwendolen, Jazzmin Letitia as Cecily and Elizabeth Brooks as Miss Prism.  The indomitable Lady Bracknell was played convincingly by Patrick Ward in the style of Margaret Rutherford.

A few 'wobbly moments’ from some cast members hardly distracted from the storyline and this could perhaps be simply a touch of first night nerves. There were also some technical issues with the microphones crackling and failing at times.

Patrick Ward in the celebrated role of Lady Bracknell and Steve Hayes as John Worthing

This was a tad aggravating and one has to ask, are microphones really necessary? It is fairly unusual for them to be used in dramatic theatre (these usually being the domain of musical theatre for the purpose of balancing singing voices).

Personally, we prefer the use of natural voice projection which allows the audience to hear the finer nuances and tones of delivery.  It may be that the acoustics of the venue are not ideal, but on the occasions where the mics failed, the actors projected well and the dialogue was clearly audible.

A lovely backdrop enhanced the simple but effective set and the costumes were authentic in appearance. However, a few of the props were somewhat dubious, for example a ‘cigarette’ case that may  have been able to hold a calling card but certainly not a cigarette and a pair of serving tongs used as sugar tongs. 

Well done to RWP for presenting a play at the Town Hall, the first one for 40 years.  A pleasant, enjoyable production, with the promise of becoming more so once the opening night hiccoughs are overcome.

Directed by Patrick Ward and produced by Frances Richmond, Oscar Wilde’s classic runs to 19-06-16.

Rosemary Manjunath and Elizabeth Smith


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