The Importance of Being Earnest
Quarndon Amateur Dramatic Society bring Oscar Wilde's 'trivial comedy for serious people' to life in farcical style.
The Importance of Being Earnest was first performed by this quality amateur company in 1941. This production, directed by Leni Robson, is a fitting 80th anniversary celebration and marks a winning return to the stage post-pandemic.
Wilde's wit and delight in language shines through in almost every line of this eminently quotable play. The talented cast handle the rhythms and pace of the writing nicely, delivering an evening of frenetic fun and plenty of laughs.
On the surface, the plot concerns idle young dandies and 'men about town' Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff and the romantic pursuit of their female counterparts, Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew. In true comic style, standing between the would-be lovers is Gwendolen's mother and formidable society figure Lady Bracknell.
Wilde's fiercely clever satire works on so many levels: bubbling underneath the surface of respectability he explores death, money and marriage, style, beauty, truth, and Victorian hypocrisy. Described by one early critic as an 'exquisitely trivial, delicate bubble of fancy' it remains his most loved and frequently performed play for good reason. As this production shows, it perfectly combines lightness of comic touch with scathing social commentary.
Rick Law and Danny Duder shine as Jack and Algie, the double-life leading duo intent on securing their respective marriages to Gwendolen and Cecily, played with equal verve and poise by Alex Wrampling and Steph Carpenter. Niki Caister is a domineering and imperious Lady Bracknell, delivering many of the play's most famous lines. Her refusal to allow her daughter to "marry into a cloak room and form an alliance with a parcel" is declared with perfectly timed vehemence and haughty disapproval.
Maureen Tierney's repressed romantic Miss Prism is appropriately prim and controlled but there are some nicely timed exchanges with John Elliott's equally repressed Dr Chasuble ("were I fortunate enough to be Miss Prism's pupil, I would hang upon her lips") hinting at their undeclared passions. Stanislavski's remark that "there are no small parts, only small actors" rings particularly true in this production. As butlers Lane and Merriman, James Dean and Max Roberts turn in winning comic performances which underscore the ridiculousness of their wealthy upper-class masters.
The sets (Emma Duder, Dan Cogswell and Michael Beddard), particularly the manor house rose garden for Act Two, work effectively to transport the audience from London to the country and raise the bar for future QUADS productions.
The truth (rarely pure and never simple) is that this was a hugely enjoyable and professionally performed production of Wilde's classic play. Welcome back QUADS. We've missed you.
The Importance of Being Earnest was performed at Quarndon Village Hall by QUADS from 17th to 20th November 2021. Tickets and information about future productions can be found here.