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The Importance of Being Earnest

– by Chantelle Pitt

Having already heard of The Importance of Being Earnest, I was hesitant about seeing it. It is considered to be Oscar Wilde’s best play and while I was nervous to see whether it would be done justice, I do believe it has.

Earnest, follows Jack and Algernon as they create fictional identities in order to move between the city and the country whenever they so please. Presented by the University of Western Australia’s University Dramatic Society, this rendition of the play is directed by first-timer Antonina Heymanson. As someone who has never seen the play before, I was impressed to say the least. The minimalist set was detailed enough to trigger my imagination as to what the rest of the scenes would look like. However, one of the production’s downfalls was the distraction of actors delivering lines with their faces in darkness or turning their back whilst talking, rendering their lines inaudible. (I have worked on plays before so a small problem such as this is easy for me to pick up on.) Unfortunately these mistakes are usually made during the technical phases and possibly the directorial phase of rehearsals and weren’t adjusted properly before opening night.

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Notable performances go to Rupert Williamson as John Worthing and Grace Chapple as Gwendolyn Farifax. Williamson is amusing in every sense of the word, including his timing, physicality and ability to eloquently rant an entire monologue. Chapple is immediately believable as an elegant and intelligent woman of aristocratic upbringing. Both Williamson and Chapple are to be commended for their strength of articulation especially during long and fast spiels of dialogue. Another notable mention goes to Ben Thomas as Algernon Moncrieff for his wonderful stage presence, comedic flair and ability to bring the character to life in such an admirable way.

The play itself was thoroughly entertaining and I believe Williamson and Thomas expertly anchored the show as the two main characters. Watching them act was a delightful experience. Although I have to say, watching Rebecca Cole as Lady Bracknell was not my favourite part of the evening, as I found her pantomime-style of acting distracting and unbelievable. Regarding Rebecca Egan as Cecily Cardew, I considered her to be a capable actor but could not look past the fact that the character didn’t look 18 years old. In fact, I would have preferred for Egan and Chapple to have switched roles.

This fast-paced comedy is filled with moments you will not stop laughing at. And although Wilde wrote Earnest in the late 19th century, the jokes are still relevant today. I laughed quite loudly every time it was mentioned that women don’t find their own husbands attractive or a case of mistaken identity was unveiled. The comedic timing of the actors is something to be congratulated and the chemistry between Williamson and Thomas is one of the things that makes this production great. Despite a few flaws in characterisation and technical aspects, The Importance of Being Earnest is a wonderful production and I thoroughly advise you go see it at once.

 

The Importance of Being Earnest plays until the 2nd of May at the Dolphin Theatre, UWA. Tickets can be purchased at ticketsWA.com

 Images courtesy of the University Dramatic Society.

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