It would be the easiest thing, when revisiting a show, to stage things. Often, revisiting a show can be more perilous than getting it on its feet in the first place. Despite recasting the role of Lady Bracknell, the rest of the cast of Artefact Theatre’s, The Importance of Being Earnest, remain the same from last year’s run, so surely it would be a relatively easy affair to copy/paste last year’s blocking and leave it there? Easy, perhaps, but not satisfying.
Instead, it’s apparent – from the first hilariously discordant notes played on piano in silhouette to the play’s famous final line – this is a fresh undertaking, full of entertainment, exploration, and fun.
The vitality and comedy of Oscar Wilde’s 1895 text is rendered beautifully here. Mark Koveliov’s set – a white trellis stage-right, a section of white wall stage left – is both sparse, yet just enough. Each act is given a different colour by Hugh Stephens’ lighting design, giving the actors a lovely canvas to work on.
Suzanne Sandow gave a delightful performance as Miss Prism, particularly in the coquettish scenes with Frank Handrum in his turn as the unassuming, undeniably sexy Scottish Reverand Chausible.
Cazz Bainbridge and Olivia Solomon were thespianic dynamite in their respective roles as Cecily and Gwendolen. Cazz attacked her lines like a surgeon moving in staccato – every movement and intention wonderfully sharp and precise (as were everyone). Olivia took a more boisterous route and and regardless of whether Gwendolen was offended or smitten, passion surged gratefully from her in all her scenes.
Thomas Jones – playing Lane in the city, Merriman in the country, and at one point a display shelf – gave an excellent performance that didn’t upstage or was lost in the background.
Ryan A Murphy is the only new addition to the cast from last year’s production in a tremendous performance as Lady Bracknell. While the reactions of guests and relatives help to sell her power and status, Lady Bracknell still needs to project those qualities and Ryan does so and then some (with sprinklings of levity throughout for good measure).
Rosco Dwyer was hysterical in his role as the over-heightened and ‘some’-what anxious, Jack. Again, the casting between pairs is perfect – Rosco combining with the uber-charm of Mark Yeates’ performance of the devilish-yet-harmless rogue, Algernon.
Director Matthew Cox has worked with cast and crew to craft some fabulous art. An evening with Artefact and this run of The Importance of Being Earnest will having you believing surely it must always have been staged this way.
The Importance of Being Earnest
Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Performance: Saturday 30 March 2019 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 6 April 2019
For more information, visit: www.artefacttheatre.com for details.
Image: Ross Dwyer and Mark Yeates feature in The Importance of Being Earnest – photo by Amy Gubana
Review: David Collins