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Tag Archives: Lucy Bailey

The Importance of Being Earnest

the importance of being earnestI was pleased to find £10 tickets for The Importance of Being Earnest at the Harold Pinter Theatre, and I wasn’t even worried about the likelihood of finding a pillar in my view, but it wasn’t that far in that I felt I wanted at least £5 of my £10 back (and the £5 I was happy for them to keep was for the charming set).

This is not so much a poor production as it is a poorly conceived one. Oscar Wilde’s amazingly witty play is couched in a modern super-plot that turns the performance into a final rehearsal for a regional repertory society’s production.

In itself, it does bring some additional humour in the form of extra quips and some additional wit, but it adds nothing of value to Wilde’s play or its message, and I would argue that in so doing, it undermines the quality of Wilde’s work.

I’m no purist. I do like playing with the great works, and appreciate a novel setting or treatment for something as familiar as this, but the problem here lies in how far Wilde stretches our willingness to suspend our disbelief. Lady Bracknell is patently absurd, and yet when performed well, she is recognisable from life and is the engine for the play’s theme. Turning Lady Bracknell into an actor performing Lady Bracknell completely undermines her integrity, and entirely flattens Wilde’s play.

If there was a point being made by the extraneous setting, it may have worked, but it adds nothing worthwhile, and ought to have been eschewed.

The best production I have seen remains Rhys Holden’s Canberra production with Free Rain Theatre in the early noughties, which retained Wilde’s words but provided an entirely modern setting, enlivening the play brilliantly.

This production doesn’t even hold a candle to it. Particularly disappointing.

 
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Posted by on Saturday, 2 August 2014 in British Theatre, Theatre

 

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Romeo & Juliet

romeo and julietIn less than a week I will be taking the stage in London for the first time at The Space on the Isle of Dogs. The Space is a quaint repurposed venue full of character and the first thing I noticed on my arrival was that Romeo and Juliet is currently in production, so of course I had to pop along.

I love Romeo and Juliet principally, I think, because though its plot plays hard and fast with the willing suspension of disbelief, its characters are drawn with impeccable honesty.

Tonight, I was treated to one of those brilliant experiences where the familiar becomes new again. The performers delivered deliciously light renditions of Shakespeare’s characters, while also delving richly into the great stock of pathos Shakespeare provided.

I was particularly taken with Lucy Bailey, who took us on the Nurse’s amusing and moving journey of joys and sorrows. Juliet was also given an unusually engaging lightness by Rebecca Burnett that provided the space for joining her on her highs and lows.

There was some novel (and very clever) casting in the form of turning Benvolio into a Benvolia, and Gregory also underwent a sex change. Both characters benefited from finding their feminine side, I thought, though it didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose other than utilising the eternal glut of female actors and relieving the difficulty of fielding a male cast.

And herein lies my one reservation about this production. Despite a couple of interesting choices such as this, and despite some commendable performances, there’s no spark of brilliance to make it truly noteworthy.

These qualities don’t quite compensate for a rather staid envisioning of a text with such broad possibilities. It just seemed far too constrained to its conventional setting, and despite the freshness of the performances, I just wanted something more to sink my teeth into.

 
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Posted by on Thursday, 29 May 2014 in Birdiedoes, British Theatre, Theatre

 

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