The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, 16th October 2012 at TBD

Location: The Dixon Studio, Palace Theatre, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, UK

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The Importance of Being Earnest It’s Downton Abbey – with good jokes

LAUGHTER remains the best medicine, and anyone who feels in need of a good chortle can always find their way to the nearest comedy club. But for those who want to be exposed to real, rich comedy at its funniest, and purest, there is only one show in town this week.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone should see Oscar Wilde’s the Importance of Being Earnest on a regular basis throughout life, and Southend Shakespeare Company’s production reminds us why you can’t go wrong by following that principle.

Wilde’s play is celebrated as a vehicle for some of the most famous one-liners in the language for theatreland’s most outstanding grande dame, Lady Bracknell, and for its elegant structure.

Everyone can enjoy the elegance of the period setting, costumes and dialogue. In some respects, the Importance is Downton Abbey with good jokes. Southend Shakespeare do elegant period comedy like no one else. As anticipated, they deliver an accomplished production, staffed with top- notch performers.

I was particularly struck by newcomer Jonathan Kerridge-Phipps, an actor so made for the part of Algernon Moncrieff he seems to have stepped right out of the 19th century boulevards into 21st century Southend.

Rob Moore, as John Worthing, and Alice Ryan and Elizabeth Kaye, as the young ladies Gwendolen and Cecily, all do polished work. Jane Brown is a splendidly frumpish Miss Prism, and Ian Downie, as the Rev Chasuble, demonstrates once again his comic versatility. Given an almost impossible task, Julie Claire-Carter as a reserved Lady Bracknell doesn’t quite manage to eclipse the ovewhelming memory of her predecessors, but her delivery of the famous Lady Bracknell lines, including, “A handbag!”, is still a joy.

This is not a play that encourages radical restagings or other director-led initiatives, but Beryl Foster does a more than workmanlike job in choreographing this production. The dialogue is unmatchable – eat your heart out, stand-ups everywhere.



No matter how often you see Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest it is always a joy and the Southend Shakespeare Company's production in the Palace Theatre, Westcliff's Dixon Studio  is no exception for it sold out on its opening night this week and is set to pack the audiences in during its run until Saturday (October 20) and overall it justifies all expectations.

Beryl Foster's production has a superb performance from SSC regular Julie Claire Carter as an awesome Lady Bracknell with her extracting the maximum impact from Wilde's most effective lines.In the more cameo parts of Dr Chasuble and Miss Prism Ian Downie and Jane Brown really shine, while Ross Norman Clarke and Roy Foster are two excellent contrasting butlers.

However, the  four leading characters, Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing and Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew are entrusted to newcomers to the company.Both Alice Ryan as Gwendolen and young Elizabeth Kaye as a very young Cecily are more than competent, with Alice growing in confidence on the play's opening night and really building her character.

But the two men did not quite match the ladies' performances with Jonathan Kerridge-Phipps as Algernon showing too much tendency to cross his arms across his chest, which not only looks ugly and unnatural but also restricts his vocal delivery.

This is a pity for he is obviously going to be a great asset to the Company and though rather young for the sophisticated role he plays he looks set to develop a great stage personality.

Rob Moore copes reasonably well with his role of Jack Worthing but both the men find it difficult delivering lines while eating the important cucumber sandwiches, muffins and bread and butter not really having learnt how to eat comfortably on stage. 

But these really are small details which will disappear during the play's run in what really is overall a very good Importance of  Being Earnest.


Character   Played By
Lane   Ross Norman-Clarke
Algernon Moncrieff   Jonathan Kerridge-Phipps
John Worthing   Rob Moore
Lady Bracknell   Julie Carter
Gwendolen Fairfax   Alice Ryan
Cecily Cardew   Elizabeth Kaye
Miss Prism   Jane Brown
Merriman   Roy Foster
Canon Chasuble   Ian Downie
Director   Beryl Foster
Assistant Director   Roy Foster
Website Liaison   Steve Pilley
Stage Manager   Amy Wilson
Lighting & Sound   Peter Finlay
Music/Arts - Drama

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