The Importance of Being Earnest

May 6, 2022 | By | 1 Reply More

★★★☆☆     Perspicacious

Church Hill Theatre: Thurs 5 – Sat 7 May 2022
Review by Thom Dibdin

The Edinburgh Makars return to the Church Hill theatre with a bounce in their step for three performances of a nicely juicy production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

This is a production which both looks the part and, under John Scott Moncrieff’s solid direction, gets right in amongst Oscar Wilde’s shimmering wit to provide the kind of big and clever entertainment which is needed just at the moment.

Tim Bond, Heather Doquiatan, Luke McGoldrick, Mike Appleby and Pat Johnson. Pic: Makars.

The obvious quality of proceedings apart, this takes longer to get off its mark than it might.

The opening scene with upper-class toff Algernon Moncrieff holding forth with his man servant, Lane, as he awaits the arrival of his aunt Lady Bracknell and her daughter Gwendolen, for afternoon tea, just doesn’t snap and crackle from its first line, as it could.

Mike Appleby’s Lane is quite the punctilious and long-suffering general factotum. It is Luke McGoldrick’s Algernon who feels too lax. The understanding of the lines is there, but their delivery is just that little bit off.

Things pick up considerably with the unexpected arrival of Algie’s friend, Jack Worthing – known as Earnest – who is in love with Gwendolen and hopes for a moment alone with her. Tim Bond plays the part in a much more conventional manner and with a greater air of the upper classes.

And it all steps up yet again with Pat Johnson’s Lady Bracknell and Heather Doquiatan’s Gwendolen. Johnson is most at ease with the material here, a scathing adversary who can easily stare down anyone who dares impinge on the strict rules of social etiquette, while blithely ignore her own double standards. Even when they are in plain sight.

Pat Johnson, Tim Bond and Heather Doquiatan. Pic: Makars

Doquiatan’s Gwendolen is not quite her mother’s echo, but is getting that way, even as she steers her own romantic path in the pursuit of a man who goes by the swoon-some name of Earnest. Except Jack doesn’t, of course. He is only Earnest in Town, in the country he is know to his young and attractive ward, Cecily, as Jack.

Comedy is all about the punchline. Get its delivery right and everything else is forgiven. The tricky thing about staging The Importance of Being Earnest is that it is full of punchlines. The decisions a company takes on how to curate them can make or break a production: which to emphasise, and which to use as primer for the next one.

On the whole, John Scott Moncrieff gets it right. Even if you know the play inside out there are laughs to be found, slightly different nuances to that delivery. His creation of Algie and Jack is particularly interesting, making them rather more different to each other than in many productions, where they can be practically peas in a pod.

Luke McGoldrick, Georgia Smith, Heather Doquiatan and Tim Bond. Pic: Makars.

Costume designers Jo Barrow and Joyce Wood have a bit to say in this count. Algie’s outfits might feel sartorially anachronistic in their flamboyance, but probably are in keeping with the period. It is more that McGoldrick hasn’t quite got that supercilious entitlement that the role demands.

Once in the country for the second act, the production is able to grow a bit, with Georgia Smith an excellent Cecily. The ways in which she and Doquiatan play off each other, as Gwendolen and Cecily discover the truths about the men they both think are called Earnest, are delicious.

Chris Pearson is properly self-obsessed as county vicar, Dr Chasuble, while Carol Davidson’s Miss Prism is scatty and prim in all the right ways. Not to mention, self-absorbed.

A thoroughly reputable interpretation of Wilde’s trivial comedy for serious people, which has a light but deft touch to it. And should send all its audiences home with a smile on their faces.

Running time: Two hours and 30 minutes (including two intervals).
Church Hill Theatre, 33 Morningside Road, EH10 4DR.
Thursday 5 – Sat 7 May 2022
Evening: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details:  Book here.

Carol Davidson (seated) with Tim Bond, Georgia Smith and Luke McGoldrick. Pic: Makars.

ENDS

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  1. Kevin Kelly says:

    Excellent version of a true classic. All the cast were on point and kept us thoroughly entertained. Special mention to Georgia Smith and Luke McGoldrick for their performances.

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