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A Handbag full of Wildean Witticisms
07 October 2011 by Nicky
|Photo - Alastair Muir
For their latest production, The Rose Theatre in Kingston has turn to
Oscar Wilde's The
Importance of Being Earnest, the classic comedy which has been
staged by professionals and amateurs alike the world
over, in venues no doubt considerably smaller than Kingston's three
year old theatre. Director and head honcho of the Rose, Stephen
Unwin knows that the lovely and perfectly formed Jane Asher (Lady Bracknell) is going to
bring in a large fan base to fill the 900 odd seats. But even she
would admit she is no Edith Evans whose vocal arpeggios
characterised the film version of 1952. Asher looks terrific and
her cake-making career has not altered her waist size in the
slightest. Asher's Bracknell is more of a young Thatcher,
determined to use the famous handbag to whip the young men into her
view of what social order should be.
But with Bruce Mackinnon as Algernon,
the stage ain't big enough for his wonderfully camp performance.
Not quite over the top, was he personifying Wilde himself? A couple
of times, I wondered whether he'd escaped from a production of Toad
of Toad Hall, despite Mackinnon being tall and slim. Yet by
the second act, he'd completely won me over.
Bruce MacKinnon (Algenon) & Daniel
Photo - Alastair Muir
Maybe London at the end of the
19th century was full of extravagant
and camp gays who had to marry to stay in society. After all, as
Unwin's excellent programme notes tell us, the opening night of
Earnest was a mere fortnight before events took
place which led to Wilde's very public downfall.
For me the biggest treat was to hear
Wilde's wonderful put downs critising London's small minded
society, which pepper the script and which are all beautifully
executed by Unwin's cast. Besides the wonderful and much parodied
"to lose one parent might be considered a misfortune.." line which
is still being personalized over 100 years later, there are dozens
of wonderful, half forgotten critiques throughout. For
example Lady Bracknell
"Thirty-five is a very attractive age.
London Society is full of women of the highest birth who of their
own free choice have remained 35 for years. Lady Dumbleton is
an instance in point. To my own knowledge she's been 35 ever since
she arrived at the age of 40 which is many years ago now."
Other lovely performances were
given by Kirsty Besterman as Gwendolen who commanded the
stage magnificently and Jenny Rainsford who presented Cecily as her
professional debut. No doubt we'll see more of her in the future.
With Daniel Brockelbank as an frenetic and impatient Jack, Ishia
Bennison as a delightful Miss Prism and Richard Cordery as Chasuble
this Importance is another excellent landmark for the Rose
and worth catching while it performs until 30th