Written for The Stage
Ronald Selwyn Phillips’ much lauded adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s absurd short story is given a disappointing revival in Nadine Hanwell’s flat-footed production.
In a delicate send-up of the silliness of the – albeit still superior – upper classes, this hammy version of Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime sees the eponymous fop conned into believing that he is destined to murder his fiance.
Wilde’s wit is as sparkling and pointed as ever, although even he seems to become weary of the twists and turns that befall his hero, making each more unreasonable than the last. Selwyn Phillips has done a tidy, if prosaic job, entwining each preposterous thread into a neatly woven narrative.
Hanwell, however, has been unable to tie all these strands together convincingly in a production that lacks plausibility and coherence. Jean Christie as a cut-glass Lady Windermere and Kate Sandison as the sickly Lady Clementina Beauchamp are enjoyable. But on the whole, relationships are presented awkwardly. Diction is a clear problem throughout, particularly for Christian Deal’s Lord Arthur Savile. Even when you can hear what they are saying, the cast do not inhabit their roles or the piece enough to transport an audience.
Written for Time Out
‘A handbag? A handbag?’ Gyles Brandreth titters before breaking into song. Is this Oscar Wilde or Noël Coward doing a party piece impression of him? ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is given new voice in Douglas Livingstone’s musical.
‘A musical?!’, Dame Edith Evans might have exclaimed. But this diluted interpretation does suit an audience already used to giving Wilde’s witticisms and aphorisms a life of their own.
Livingstone’s book and Adam McGuinness and Zia Moranne’s score are classy and character-led. Flora Spencer-Longhurst sparkles in Cecily’s joyful Charleston number ‘Wicked!’ and Miss Prism (Susie Blake) and Dr Chasuble (Edward Petherbridge) cause much hilarity with their reverent courting in ‘It all Began in a Garden’.
Samal Blak’s design, in which gardens grow out of suitcases, is imaginative and stylish and Brandreth makes a regal Lady Bracknell. It’s not exactly ‘My Fair Lady’. But even Wilde would have admired the new-found silliness
in this light-hearted musical.
Runs until 31st December
Written for Whats On Stage 19 November 2009
It’s always exciting to look into the lives of those artistic giants who have shaped our modern culture and delight in the surprises to be found there. Mark Rothko’s hatred of Andy Warhol, Claude Monet who, long before his bourgeoisie water lilies, was the enfant terrible of the art world; the list of real life intrigues is endless.
Following this gossipy ‘tude therefore, When Henri Met Oscar, Michael Gannon’s new play, is bound to be a corker. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec with his painted whirling dervishes and Oscar Wilde’s delightfully sharp yet frothy wit, both outsiders of the Establishment, both in their separate ways obsessed with beauty; this was to be a meeting of titans. But instead of the explosion longed for, all that results in this confused play is a bemused fizzle, and a damp one at that.
We begin in a high class brothel in 1894 Paris, and end in a cafe in 1900. During this time Wilde is imprisoned and released whilst Toulouse-Lautrec has been sectioned and is dying. Bewilderingly these life changing events do not affect any discernible personal development within Gannon’s characters. All we get to see is a continuous and tedious routine of griping and quipping at one another which bears no relation to a two-way friendship. Interspersed between their waspish discourse, prostitutes giggle and flirt, supposedly giving us a taste of the bohemian atmosphere of the Moulin Rouge.
Sadly for all this intended hedonism, the only joyous moments come when Wilde is quoted verbatim, with all else in this staging being quirky and awkward. This is a mess of a script that jumps incomprehensibly from the past to the present and gives no in-depth sense of these two men as either individuals or friends. After two hours the question still remains; what did happen when Henri met Oscar?
Director Sinead Kent fails to get a grip on the piece, leaving the cast to fall into either overacting, or under confident performances. Moments of silence are all too easily seen as accidents and consequently there are no moments of tension. Within this hesitant bumbling there are some valiant attempts at detailed physical characterization from Steven Rodgers, who at points succeeds in channeling a little of the spirit of Toulouse-Lautrec. But this is more than can be said for the rest of this show, which disappointingly lacks any of the sublime clarity and conviction that made its eponymous heroes so exceptional.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Director: Irina Brown
Reviewer: Honour Bayes
“We live, I regret to say, in an age of surfaces” Lady Bracknell admits in Oscar Wilde’s delightfully nonsensical The Importance of Being Earnest, and so it would seem to be in Irina Brown’s rather outward facing production at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park. Set against Kevin Knight’s incredibly stark background of white minimalist lines and huge mirrors which sparkle as coldly as Wilde’s dialogue, this is a production which seems rather stretched at times, with the actors often reaching to be heard and posturing a little too overtly in sometimes uncomfortably blocked passages of action. It is still terribly funny though, peppered as it is with recognisable witticisms from arguably England’s most diverting writer and as comedic arrow after arrow zings out from the stage, it cannot be denied that it is a very enjoyable evening.