Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
IT’S fair to say that the only outstanding version of this timeless comedy is a bad one. Expectations are so high that even an impressive production doesn’t leave that great an impression.
It takes a particularly dire delivery to negate the rapier lines and slick narrative arcs – and in this respect the Stephen Joseph Theatre Company have triumphed.
It may not be brave or innovative, but by playing The Importance of Being Earnest with a straight bat, they’ve clearly been able to focus on executing the play well rather than worrying about reinventing the concept.
Other directors have tried too hard to take artistic deviations which turn out to be disastrous or, at best, cringeworthy. So, to see a simple, in-period version of Earnest, is strangely refreshing.
Chris Monks does an admirable job of directing the cast as they tackle the complex twists, but he doesn’t seem to make the most of the physical comedy or, indeed, the potential for comic timing in the lines. Instead that seems to be left to the actors.
Becky Hindley is intriguing with her crisp but often understated Lady Bracknell and judiciously milks the laughs. Charlie Hollway as mischievous aristocrat Algernon, is also solid, as is Simon Bubb, as central protagonist, John Worthing.
In fact, ‘solid’ is the best way to describe this production which doesn’t take any chances or provide any surprises. It isn’t outstanding, for all the right reasons.