The Importance of Being Earnest
It takes a particular level of skill to conjure up a balmy summer’s day in the Home Counties on a freezing December night in Blackburn, yet that is precisely what the cast of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ achieved on December 1st and 2nd in the Main Hall. Oscar Wilde’s witty and acerbic play never ceases to amuse and the pace of Ben Ventress’ production built perfectly.
Theo Roberts set the scene with style as Algernon Moncrieff; a young man enjoying the freedoms of youth and wealth, whose wit and affable nature warmed audience and characters alike to him. James Henaghan was equally engaging, and the interplay between the two was a delight to watch. As with any good comic double-act, it was particularly entertaining to watch the two develop as more was revealed about their friendship, with Henaghan’s intense sincerity contrasting perfectly with Roberts’ puckish sparkle.
Anyone wondering where, precisely, they may find the Northern Powerhouse need look no further than Lady Bracknell, in the form of Wendy Askam. Her authority, issued with a sparkle in the eye, exuded style and it was particularly impressive to see a member of staff integrated flawlessly into the cast, which was predominantly made up of members of the Sixth Form. Mrs Askam’s authoritative, commanding delivery was perfect comedy: her classroom must be a wonderful place to be!
Then, of course, came the young ladies. Mariam Goorani-Nejad, as Gwendolen Fairfax, exuded the manners and enthusiasm of her age, along with a generous helping of wit, while Kate Newborough’s Cecily Cardew was hilariously sharp in her idealism. Their performances were most outstanding when they played opposite each other, first as friends and then as rivals, whilst retaining their outward manners.
This adaptation was, simply, hilarious. Wilde’s wit was allowed to speak for itself; the pace of delivery was so appropriate that even the famous one-liners were delivered as fresh and original. Theo Roberts, in particular, had the pace and confidence of a stand-up comedian, whilst retaining the elegance and mannered delivery of late-Victorian London.
Mention must, here, go to Kyle Wells-Stonehouse and Annabel Harvey, whose comic timing was used to perfect effect as Lane and Merriman. Their reactions as servants was reminiscent of the droll wit of Jeeves, and a very funny addition to the action, particularly during Cecily and Gwendolen’s rather waspish afternoon tea.
Equally hilarious was Seb Roberts who, as Canon Frederick Chasuble, created such an affable, adaptable clergyman that he shone in what could have been a more minor role. His benevolent nature and understated responses were, again, perfect examples of comic timing. Together with Samantha Hepworth as the restrained and somewhat prudish Miss Prism, they added a warmth and additional lightness of touch which was very well received.
This was a pleasingly intimate, in-the-round performance which certainly warmed a winter’s night and should be remembered as a real success for Mr Ventress and the entire cast and crew.