The Importance of Being Earnest

This particular Earnest is a serious comedy by very young people. Beath Stage Productions, a school group, made a gutsy move in bringing such an over-performed show to the Fringe — most professionals wouldn’t even try. Their rendition is scrupulously detailed and the cast are all very committed. This is Wilde by the book, but it suffers a bit from being perhaps too... well, earnest. Everyone’s clearly working very hard, but we can see them working and so Wilde’s bon mots all fail to land with grace and natural comic timing. However, these are very young actors and the polish will come with time. For now, they deserve credit for putting together a solid show. For any Wilde purists desperate to see The Importance of Being Earnest over Fringe, this production has no nasty surprises or twists.

If you like your Wilde (but, sadly, not your muffins) served in the traditional fashion, this very earnest Earnest is thoroughly suitable.

The cast all gamely recite their lines with only an occasional hitch and do a good job of supporting each other onstage. Sometimes, they have a tendency to rush through or anticipate cues, but these problems will go away with practice. They all seem to thoroughly enjoy the script, but they’ve been a bit over-directed here. Each actor seems to have been coached in just one emotion — Arron Dow is the smuggest Algy who ever smugged; Emily Almond’s Cecily is just sweet and dim, without the manic streak which makes Cecily such fun. Mirren Hutchison (Gwendolen) does have some delightfully haughty facial expressions and Alex King (Miss Prism) and Kieran Snaddon (Chasuble) are respectively perfectly prim and pompous. Graeme Burns gives a respectable performance as Jack, channelling his stage nerves into the anxious bachelor. Catriona McInally (Lady Bracknell) doesn’t have the necessary foghorn bellow, but she is convincingly elderly. The absolute star of the show is Craig Black as both the butlers. His version of Merriman is essentially Marty Feldman as Igor in Young Frankenstein. If only the rest of the cast had been given as much freedom to play with their characters.

What they lack in ease and depth, though, they make up for in precision. This abridged version of the play moves along quite nicely, though you do miss some bits: they cut the muffins out entirely! However, the scene transitions are expertly handled and the set is top-of-line school play scenery. Jill Brown’s costumes are a lovely effort. If you like your Wilde (but, sadly, not your muffins) served in the traditional fashion, this very earnest Earnest is thoroughly suitable. 

Reviews by Lauren Moreau

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Performances

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The Blurb

Jack Worthing, posing as playboy Earnest, is desperate to find his true family origins in order to marry Gwendolen Fairfax, daughter of Lady Bracknel, a gorgon of the highest order. Farcical intrigue follows, as friend Algie, on a hedonistic jaunt, falls for Jack’s lovely ward Cecily and Jack’s lifelong mystery of being found in a handbag at Victoria Station, unravels in hilarious style. A youthful, eloquent and witty romp set in Victorian England. The Importance of Being Earnest, undoubtedly Wilde’s most famous and funniest work, premiered just before the incarceration which ended his career.

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