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The Importance of Being Earnest - Review

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by Douglas Sutherland-Bruce (subscribe)
Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at:
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Good one, Oscar
Black Swan Theatre's first production for 2013, The Importance of Being Earnest, has opened in stylish fashion at the Heath Ledger to full houses.

The Importance of Being Ernest
Rebecca Davis Stuart Halusz and Adriane Daff. "The Importance of Being Earnest". Photo by Gary Marsh

The production is competent, well acted and directed and was vastly enjoyed by opening night audience. But I have some reservations. I know this play pretty well. I've directed it twice and seen it many times,including the Ruth Cracknell/ Geoffrey Rush/Gordon Chater production, which I think can fairly be called the benchmark in Australian performances.

The plot doesn't need re-hashing. If you know it, you don't need a plot rundown. It you don't know it, it doesn't matter. This is a play of manners and style. Even Oscar called it 'a serious play for trivial people'. Or was that 'a trivial play for serious people'?

But what is important (other than being Ernest) is that it is set in 1895, a time when style was everything. As Lady Bracknell remarks: 'he has nothing, but looks everything'. And to begin with Jenny Davis was simply not frightening enough as Lady Bracknell.

She is not, by any stretch the Gorgon she is meant to be and that slightly reduces the plot motivations. Also Pauline Whyman was entirely miscast as Miss Prism. Her accent floated between Wales, Scotland and the Antipodes and she wasted some guaranteed laugh lines. She wasn't bad, she just wasn't as good as she could have been.

The Importance of Being Ernest
Jenny Davis and Scott Sheridan. "The Importance of Being Earnest". Photo by Gary Marsh

Direction of the small details was a tiny bit off as to period. Gentlemen do not cross their legs nor put their hands in their pockets in the company of ladies in 1895. They also spoke a lot slower.

There was much to admire, however. The energy levels were incredibly high. Michael Loney and Lane/Merriman was superb, as always. Adriane Daff as Cecily was wonderful, sparkling and with impeccable timing. The big fight scene between she and Gwendolen was delightful.

It was charming to see mother and daughter playing mother and daughter and husband and wife playing beloved and suitor and gave the roles an extra dimension.

Well worth seeing if for nothing else than the magnificent set and scenery this production of The Importance of Being Earnest is flawed, but a gallant effort and presages great things for the coming year's season.

The Importance of Being Earnest
runs at the Heath Ledger Theatre until the 28th March 2013 and if any tickets are available they can be bought on-line at Ticketek.
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Why? Energetic, Lively, Black Swan Earnest
When: 182 William Street, Perth, WA
Where: State Theatre Centre of WA, 182 William Street, Perth
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