THEATRE LIFE REVIEW: The Importance of Being Earnest

Known as probably Oscar Wildes finest work, the popularity of this play rarely seems to have dwindled. It has been re-imagined in many ways but this CTW production took us back to the original.

The Importance of Being Earnest tells the story of two bachelors, John ‘Jack’ Worthing and Algernon ‘Algy’ Moncrieff, who create alter egos named Ernest to escape their tiresome lives. They attempt to win the hearts of two ladies – Gwendolen and Cecily – who, conveniently, claim they could only love gentlemen called Ernest. The pair struggle to keep up with their own lies and we get to watch the car crash as the whole thing unravels before us.

Playing the self-absorbed, idle and selfish Algernon Moncrieff, was Dylan Price. Dylan was flamboyant and outlandish showing the more decadent side of Victorian bachelor life. Whilst his performance was unstructured and sometimes felt a little lost, he certainly did a good job showing us the shallowness of Algy’s character perfectly.

Taking on the role of John Worthing was Andy Poole. Andy has such a strong stage presence and he gave one of the best performances I have seen in a long while, delivering some great comedy moments and was easily the glue which held the entire piece together. He was a pleasure to watch and I really hope to see him in another role very soon.

Laura Hill gave us a formidable Gwendolen who has certain requirements for her proposal and her fiancé’s name and Meg Rennie as Cecily Cardew, Jacks young ward was charming and exuberant.

Lynne Foster as Lady Bracknell although she had the presence of a great dame, seemed to struggle a little with the dialogue and her first scene was somewhat diminished by her hat, as anyone sitting in the audience to the extreme left of the auditorium would have struggled to see face due to its positioning on her head. Sight-lines are always extremely important especially when the audience sit straight on to the stage as they do at the Old Court Theatre.

Rachel Curren as Miss Prism and Mark Sutton as the Reverend Canon Chasuble both gave strong and engaging performances which were consistent throughout. I also thought the two butlers Terry Cramphorn and Simon Hirst gave subtle but confident portrayals showing how important every single role in a production is.

As we have come to expect at CTW, the set was stunning with simple changes to the three locations and the costumes were perfectly suited to the characters. This was a hugely enjoyable production and I commend the cast and production team on yet another winning play.

NODA REVIEW: The Flint Street Nativity

Flint Street Massive Newt
DATE18th December 2019
SOCIETYChelmsford Theatre Workshop
VENUEThe Old Court Theatre, Chelmsford
DIRECTORSRachel Curren and Stephanie Yorke-Edwards

Author: Amanda Green on behalf of Decia Ranger

This play was a very bold choice for Rachel Curren and Stephanie Yorke-Edwards to make for their directing debut, and they should be applauded for the preparation and enthusiasm that went into it. On the surface it may seem a simple enough idea to have adults acting as children performing a nativity play, but of course it is much more complex in practice. The directors had to ensure that the adult actors did not break character as children, that they could furthermore do justice to their portrayal of their own parents, and also bring to life the underlying backstories of each family, so subtly woven into the script.

The individual actors had worked on a specific characteristic that would define their particular child. At times these were a little overstated, risking a distraction from the story they were telling, so perhaps a softer approach might have helped in places, but they did well to tackle such a challenging task with great gusto and dedication. The surprise for the audience was the transition into their parents later in the play, which gave the actors the opportunity to develop their characters into what was essentially their adult selves. It was moving to hear about the shortcomings in each child’s home life told from the perspective of the child, and then to see it played out in the behaviour of the respective adults. Although the pace could have been tighter in places during some of the lengthier scenes, the scene-changes were slick, and the play flowed well. Appropriate costumes were used to demonstrate the different background of each child, enhanced by the wardrobe choice for the corresponding adult.

The actors should be praised for their concentration, and the support that they gave each other in what was a true ensemble piece. Each one of them contributed to a team effort, and each one was always present in the moment during their performance.

The addition of the songs added to the challenge. The timing between the piano-playing and each child’s singing was so spot-on, that it was hard to believe that the piano had been pre-recorded. This had to have been very well-rehearsed, and their hard work was evident throughout. The one note to make about this was the volume of the piano accompaniment that occasionally overpowered the quieter of the singers. Despite this, each actor managed to successfully deliver a sometimes very difficult rendition of the re-written carols, with amusing and complex lyrics, again demonstrating how engaged each member of the team was.

The overriding impression was that of a production that all involved were enjoying, delivered with energy and enthusiasm. Well done to everyone on a splendid collaborative achievement, and thank you for inviting me.