|Steph Roberts (Algernon Moncrief) - Noel Horwood (Jack Worthing)|
Directed by Jarrad West – Assistant directors: Steph Roberts & Joel Horwood.
Costume Design: Fiona Lean – Property Design: Marya Glyn-Daniel
Lighting Design: Nathan Sciberras – Sound Design: Nathan Patrech.
ACTHub – 8th – 17th December. 2002.
Performance on 9th December reviewed by Bill Stephens.
|Blue Hislop (Merrilane) - Lainie Hart (Miss Prism) - Louiza Blomfield (The Downlows)|
This is one production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” that you cannot afford to miss. Even when it was first performed in 1875, Wilde’s play was described as “A trivial comedy for serious people”. Since then it has become a staple for professional and community theatre companies around the world. However it’s doubtful if it has ever been given a production quite like this one.
Director Jarrad West has come up idea of stripping the play of its period connotations and presenting it in a cabaret setting. He’s retained Wilde’s original dialogue, except for anything superfluous to his concept, carefully retaining all the lines you want to hear, and ignoring the gender of his actors when casting.
Therefore Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrief are played by Joel Horwood and Steph Roberts; Gwendoline Fairfax and Cecily Cardew are played by Shae Kelly and Holly Ross. Lady Bracknell is portrayed by Lainie Hart, Victoria Dixon plays Miss Prism, Janie Lawson plays Dr. Chasuble, and the two butlers, Merriman and Lane, are condensed into one character now called Merrilane and played by Blue Hyslop as a sort of combination of Lurch from “The Adams Family” and “Frank N Furter” from “The Rocky Horror Show”. West also added a cabaret duo,“The Downlows” (Louise Blomfield and Dave Collins), to the cast who comment on the action with stylish and hilarious versions of popular songs.
It shouldn’t work, but it does...a treat…and the result is an evening of sheer theatrical bliss.
|Louiza Blomfield - Dave Collins (The Downlows)|
The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into the ACT hub is that it’s been completely transformed into a glamorous and cosy jazz club, The Bunbury. You’ll be ushered to your table, or one of the velvet lounges, and offered the opportunity to purchase a specially created gin cocktail called Bunbury Tea. You’ll discover when the play commences that the action happens all around you, but thankfully there is no audience participation required other than to enjoy the brilliant performances of the cast, and as this is a first-class cast of clowns, you most certainly will.
Each actor has been encouraged to develop an individual idiosyncratic characterisation, for which Fiona Leach has designed a marvellous costume. Each costume is itself a work of wearable art that completely ignores period or fashion but accurately captures the essence of Wilde’s intention.
While Wilde’s dialogue is unchanged the clever delivery by each of the cast, together with some wonderful physical interpolations, focusses attention on the brilliance of his writing which remains as funny and pertinent today as when it was written.
Steph Roberts and Joel Horwood, as Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrief, are a lesson in brilliant comedy acting, phrasing their lines with purpose and clarity and supporting them with well-considered, hilarious physical business.
|Lainie Hart (Miss Prism) - Joel Horwood (Jack Worthing)|
Lainie Hart is terrific as the imperious Lady Bracknell intent on vetting the credentials of any prospective suitor for her daughter, Gwendoline, played with panache by Shae Kelly. Holly Ross is wonderfully vacuous as the not-so-delicate Cecily Cardew, intent on marrying Algernon Moncrief. Victoria Dixon as Miss Prism almost brings the house down with her hysterics following her revelations about the famous handbag. Janie Lawson adds to the fun with her delightfully venal Dr. Chasuble, while Blue Hyslop, with very little to say, lurks with intent, popping up from every corner of the room when least expected.
|Steph Roberts (Algernon Moncrief) - Joel Horwood (Jack Worthing) - Holly Ross (Cecily Cardew)|
Adding the icing on the cake, Louiza Blomfield and Dave Collins, as the two cabaret performers who link the scenes, do so with such taste and skill as to set up the expectation that perhaps ACThub patrons might be treated to more of their talents in the promised cabaret performances announced in its 2023 program.
Whether you’re a theatre aficionado or just looking for something special to celebrate the festive season, you’d be mad to miss this brilliantly conceived and performed production which offers a perfect theatrical bon-bon to celebrate the festive season.
Images by Janelle McMenamin
This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au