Directed by Jarrad West
ACT HUB production, ACT HUB Theatre, Kingston to 17 December
Reviewed by Len Power 9 September 2022
There’s something quite wicked and wonderful happening at the ACT HUB theatre in Kingston. Director, Jarrad West has taken Oscar Wilde’s classic play, “The Importance Of Being Earnest” and breathed new life into it with a more than capable cast willing to play the hell out of it and entertain audiences in a way they could never have suspected.
The play was Oscar Wilde’s fourth and most enduring play. Written in 1895, it is a farce which satirises Victorian society, institutions and the morals and manners of the time. Its witty dialogue and famous epigrams delight audiences even after more than 100 years.
The first thing you notice on arrival at the ACT HUB theatre is that the auditorium and foyer have been changed. Suddenly it’s a completely atmospheric cabaret setting with tables and chairs and two bizarrely-dressed singers, The Downlows (Louiza Blomfield and Dave Collins), warbling rather modern songs very nicely.
|Louiza Blomfield and Dave Collins|
The play erupts rather than starts at one of the tables in the midst of the audience. Steph Roberts appears to be playing Algernon Moncrieff, normally a male role, and Joel Horwood is Jack Worthing, a man-about-town or something.
A parade of curious characters follows, played by well-known Canberra actors who almost defy recognition in their extraordinary costumes by Fiona Leach and gender choice by whoever.
Lainie Hart is a formidable Lady Bracknell in a top hat, Shae Kelly is Gwendoline Fairfax like she has never been played before, Holly Ross gives shades of meaning to Cecily Cardew we did not know were there, Victoria Dixon is a delightfully distorted Miss Prism and Janie Lawson is insanely funny in her unique take on Dr. Chasuble.
|Steph Roberts, Joel Horwood and Holly Ross|
Many of the cast join the singers at the microphone, too. The Downlows chime in with songs now and again and the surly and dangerous-looking waiter, Merrilane, (Blue Hyslop) somehow keeps it all running smoothly while looking like an escapee from ‘The Rocky Horror Show’.
It could have been a gamble that didn’t pay off, but the play’s words are respected and the cast are brilliant farceurs who deliver those lines with skill, keeping the layers of meaning intact. Listen carefully for sly, modern additions. The action moves around the room to various tables, so don’t get too comfortable as you might be asked to move.
Director, Jarrad West, has produced a remarkable entertainment with this classic play pulled apart and put back together again. His cast have embraced his vision, giving the audience a furiously played evening of fun and laughter. Oscar Wilde would have loved it!
Photos by Janelle McMenamin
This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 10 December.
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.