Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

The Importance of Being Earnest

Shoreline Theatre , Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea , February-03-05
The problem with Oscar Wilde's classic comedy of social manners
and morals is that potential audiences are divided into two camps.
Older people are bound to remember the definitive delivery of the
best known line in the play - "A handbag?" - as intoned in an
incredulous and wildly OTT fashion by veteran actress Dame Edith
Evans.
Younger folk, on the other hand, will undoubtedly have seen the
big-screen version which was so successful just a couple of years
ago.
So on the face of it, at least, any company - whether professional
or amateur - which attempts to stage a new production of this
story is on a hiding to nothing. Happily, however, Shoreline
Theatre - the company formerly known to Swansea audiences as
the University Players and to University porters as the "Drama Soc" -
has managed to create a fresh, uncluttered and wholly entertaining
production out of what is essentially a very wordy and non-visual
piece.
It says much for the directorial input of Annae-Marie Cox and
Joanna Syms - and also for the energy of the ten-strong cast - that
there is so much physicality here, and that it is not only the verbal
humour that elicits giggles: there are some nice touches of physical
comedy(including an instantly recognisable Morecambe & Wise
dance routine)which give the piece a youthful buzz and demonstrate
the amount of effort that has been invested in putting the play
together.
Admittedly, there are some minor niggles - at the performance I
attended, much of the dialogue was delivered at an incredibly
fast rate(though hopefully the performers had slowed down by
the following evening)and there were also some stylistic slips,
such as the anachronistic ponytail sported by the otherwise
excellent Fraser Walker as lounge lizard Algenron Moncrieff.
In the main, however, this is fine stuff, punctuated with strong
performances from the principals, including Stephen Dixon(John
Worthing), Kelly McQueen(Gwendolen Fairfax), Mel Morris(Lady
Bracknell)and Jenn Marks(Cecily Cardew), the latter attempting to emulate Renee
Zelwegger by masking her American accent with an upper-class English one(and
largely succeeding).
There were also some fine contributions from supporting players
Dan Hilton, Natalie Reynolds, Dom Gay, Mike Glen and Edward
Reed.
By and large this is a noteworthy addition to the already
impressive canon of work produced by this society, who enjoy
strong support not only only from the usual audience of friends
and family but also from the wider theatrical community in and
around Swansea.

Reviewed by: Graham Williams

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