As one of Oscar Wilde’s most classic comedies, The Importance of Being Earnest is a play that deserves to be done well, and it is safe to say that Edinburgh University Theatre Company’s production exceeds expectations.
Without exception, each character handles the flowery script well. With so many opportunities to stumble over a mouthful of Wildean rambling it should be applauded that no meaning is lost and no joke missed by the cast. From Algy and Jack’s convoluted bickering to Miss Prism and Dr Chasuble’s fastidious chatter, the cast has perfect control over their script and manages to command the attention of the audience for all three acts. The production has an excellent pace which never lacks, barely giving the audience time to stop laughing between the quips and comebacks.
While truly every cast member plays their role to near-perfection, a real standout is Fergus Head as Algernon. With the cheekiest expressions you will ever see and a magical way of appearing perpetually unbothered by his own misfortune, Head makes you wish you could run into “really wicked” (as he is dubbed by Cecily) people like him every day of your life. He could not be more debonaire, and together with Gordon Stackhouse as Jack Worthing, the two make the perfect pair of dandies.
Áine Higgins and Georgie Carey as Gwendolen and Cecily make another great pair. Seated in a beguiling set draped with vines and flowers, the two give a terrifying display of passive aggression. They excel at loading their politeness with hidden poison, creating a hilarious effect which is made all the better when not five minutes later they passionately forgive each other, to the despair of Jack and Algy.
Stackhouse’s background acting does not go unnoticed, subtly but tortuously gazing at Gwendolen as she pointedly enjoys her bread and butter. Jack Worthing being quietly driven to distraction provides the perfect contrast to the formidable Lady Bracknell (Ishbel McLachlan) ticking off Algernon on the other side of the room. McLachlan commands the stage with her imperious air, clearly striking fear into the hearts of the other characters with her brilliantly condescending facial expressions and aghast reactions to the behaviour of her surrounding society.
These scenes with multiple characters are perfectly staged, as the cast carefully ensures there is always something to notice even when only two characters are interacting. Several scenes feature pointed looks, incredulous reactions and expressions of drastic realisation, which result in a constantly lively and entertaining production.
The slick set and costumes tie off a beautifully clean production with seamless transitions, which is topped off by Patrick Hall in multiple roles as the two butlers, both wonderfully Jeeves-like in their distinguished nature. From start to finish, this production is well-choreographed and genuinely captivating.
The Importance of Being Earnest ran at Bedlam Theatre from 25-29 February, 2020.
Featured image credit: Andrew Perry