1 October 2011

The Importance of Being Earnest at The Rose

The Rose Theatre in Kingston is probably my closest, though the two in Richmond are not far away either, and there was quite a fight to bring a theatre to the town so as a regular theatre goer I do try to patronise it.

The Rose does not help me here by keeping to a fairly safe repertoire of well known classics where my taste is for more edgy new drama.

But the old classics are classics for a reason so it makes sense to fill some cultural gaps when the opportunity arises.

That is why my last three visits to The Rose were to see plays by Ayckbourn, Coward and Bennett, and why I returned this time to see a play by Wilde.

I have nothing at all against Jane Asher (I saw here in another Ayckbourn with Ian McKellen in 1988's Henceforward... at Richmond Theatre) but, despite the poster, hers was not the name that mattered to me, it was Wilde's.

This was my first time upstairs at the Rose in the Circle. This is much as the stalls but higher up. The view is fine and you are no great distance from the stage.

As befits a comedy of words, the set was pretty basic. The fashionable London reception room of the first scene requires just a couple of pieces of furniture to define it.

There is no curtain to rise as its a proscenium stage but the lights dim and we are introduced to the two young men whose words and deeds drive the play.

Not that the plot is that important either. It does give a flow, structure and purpose to the play but its main purpose is to be the hook on which to hang as many familiar Wilde bon mots on as possible.

These witticisms come thick and fast; these are just a few to give a taste.
  • "I don't play accurately - any one can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression."
  • "When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people."
  • "Oh, I don't think I would care to catch a sensible man. I shouldn't know what to talk to him about."
  • "London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years."
The words do what they are meant to and the theatre is full of giggles, smirks, chortles and laughter. This is a funny play.

The cast also do what they are meant to do, and that is not a lot. That's not to say that they are irreverent, far from it, it is just that they are there to deliver the words and not to detract attention from them.

In this context I do not see the point of having a star name like Jane Asher on the bill. Are people really that gullible when choosing whether to go to the theatre?

Being upstairs brought a pleasant surprise, the waiting areas on the first floor are so much better than the unfinished looking ground floor. There is also a nice view of the Guildhall to entertain you.

Good news, there is a bar there too; bad news, it was shut. But there were ice creams.

The Importance of Being Earnest is a nice play stuffed with the amusing dialogue you expect from Wilde, which makes it a satisfying performance but it remains safe and unchallenging and so satisfying is all that it can aspire to.

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