Wilde’s witty and perceptive dialogue is full of veneer, fickleness and image obsession – surely the audience doesn’t need to be spoon-fed with added Marie Claire and Grazia references. That said, some of the additions served the text and tickled the audience. This ‘present day’ take rather floated in the middle ether; never wholly committing to the update.
The scene between Cecily and Gwendolen was lovely to watch, playful and full of fizz
Christopher Keegan’s alcohol-loving Lane, inviting the audience into Algernon Moncrieff’s home, was like a student houseguest who had out-stayed his welcome rather than a butler. This fitted the faux-leopard rug clad bachelor pad, but was difficult to match up to the text. The first half is effectively a two-hander, and the young male leads lacked the energy or charisma to get a handle on their parts, though the director must be liable for the pacing problems. James Clifford as Algernon had a likeable manner but was erratic in delivery. Thomas Blyth as Jack Worthing had a nice air of seriousness but was rarely on cue, giving too much air to the piece – it sagged instead of taking flight.
The second half picked up; the modernisation was less try-hard, the language more natural, and the lively entrance of a well-pitched Cecily, Emily Tucker, gave it momentum. Andrew Wickes was very enjoyable as Dr. Chasuble, with a wonderful voice and comic timing. The scene between Cecily and Gwendolen was lovely to watch, playful and full of fizz, and there was an improved performance by Clifford.
All in all, this revival was lacking in lustre and humour which, given Wilde’s elegant script, seems wasteful.
** (2 stars)
Runs until 5th December