Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Review • THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST • Ridiculusmus @ Barbican Pit • 2005

Barbican Centre, London [Wikipedia]

Barbican Centre, London [Wikipedia]

No sooner have we had The Tempest at the Globe with all the parts played by three male actors than BITE:05 brings us Oscar Wilde’s great comedy with nine roles played by two: Jon Haynes and David Woods. Why? Perhaps there’s only the mountaineer’s reply: “Because it’s there.” Why not? Why ask? Just enjoy it, for it is very, very funny.

How do they do it? With skill and considerable ingenuity. In a play that relies for its plot on an imaginary brother, an imaginary fiancée and an imaginary invalid, it is seems perfectly in order to ask the audience to use just a little extra of their own imagination. In fact, it is not really imagination that the audience must contribute but they must accept that basic theatrical premise that if we are offered this as something or someone, it becomes it. This production would make a perfect subject for a theatre studies semiotics with its signifiers and signified, animate and inanimate. An actor or a puppet, a hat, a frightful wig, a skirt, or a jacket, leave us in no doubt who is who as David Woods plays Lane, Worthing, Cecily, Chasuble and Lady Bracknell, and Jon Haynes Algie, Gwendolen, Miss Prism, Merriman — and Lady Bracknell also.

They begin by operating their own sound and light effects and zapping a CD player — you may get some sense of the production if I tell you that Bracknell enters to Wagner’s Valkyrie music.

This is the first time Ridiculusmus have worked with an existing text and, though they do indulge some anachronistic music and choreography during changes of scene, and the set reveals a modern refrigerator to store Lane’s cucumber sandwiches, they play the lines absolutely straight and with great sincerity. No swooping vowels for Lady Bracknell, though the style does grow a little more florid as the play draws to a close. Wilde’s brilliantly funny text comes through fresh-minted. Despite some sumptuous costuming with a wonderfully flamboyant hat for Gwendolen to match her yellow and orange ensemble and a crowing black cockerel perched on Lady Bracknell’s head, this minimal casting concentrates attention on the words with its succession of aphorisms and one-liners amazingly forming a conversational interchange.

This is also the first time the company have worked with a director and clearly this production is a close collaboration with Jude Kelly. She has certainly ensured that they never go too far. Cross-gender casting often produces refreshing results and, as often happens in Shakespeare, these characterisations give us the essence of girlishness and sophistication without caricature. Wood’s Worthing and his ward sound just a little countrified against the clipped tones of Haynes’s aristocrats and both actors cleverly differentiate their vocal characterisations (though when Haynes takes over from Wood as Chasuble his Welsh tones do veer towards Seller’s Indian).

The two actors, as Worthing and Cecily, wonderfully preserve proprieties in a romantic scene where their hands hover together but never quite touch, but we enter another dimension when Cecily, already in her imagination well into an engagement, begins to strip fiancée Algie to the waist and already has his flies undone before she is forced to desist. There is a gradual escalation of stylization from here on as both actors lose their trousers but (and perhaps there is just a touch of the Kenny Everetts here) all ‘in the best possible taste’.

Designer Zoë Atkinson has covered the floor with Persian rugs and surrounded the stage with a wall of screens and furniture — wardrobes, sideboards, cupboards, bookshelves, a piano and chests of drawers — covered in a mosaic of patterned fabrics that give a sense of an overstuffed fin de siècle scene with a fold-out row of fabric garden trees to tell us when we have moved outdoors. Her costume designs, incidentally, are on display between the Pit lobby and the theatre: don’t miss them. And don’t miss this show. I think Oscar Wilde would have loved it.

The only thing that did not work for me was a galliard danced as a curtain piece but after such a captivating show, Woods and Haynes should be allowed a little self-indulgence.

Howard Loxton © 2005

Originally published on R&V 12-06-05

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The poor side of life

EXPOSING CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY.EXPOSING THE GOVERNMENTS WAR AGAINST THE POOR.FIGHTING FOR BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS. SANCTIONS KILL.

For the Love of Art

Create, Explore, and Discover, Every Day.

Politics and Insights

Public interest issues, policy, equality, human rights, social science

IWtheatre

Supporting the rich amateur theatre scene on the Isle of Wight

Robin Hoskyns Nature Photography - Blog

Images and stories of nature, science and conservation.

Sarah Ditum

Writing, etc.

The Müscleheaded Blog

"Nothing Exceeds Like Superfluous Jejunity "

Jots from a Small Apt.

Largely @ Liberty

Rethinking Life

Art and the philosophy of life

Croatia, the War, and the Future

Ina Vukic - Croatia: people, politics, history, economy, transition from communism to democracy

lynz real cooking

lynz real life

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Pride's Purge

an irreverent look at UK politics

Tropical Affair

Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...

barneyhoskyns.com

The home of writer Barney Hoskyns' books, poems, photos and more.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

Left Handed Lottie

Drawing and painting on an ipad

Atelier 88

More than just rooms

The Sleeping Hare

Art by Lottie Nevin

Pacific Paratrooper

This WordPress.com site is Pacific War era information

beetleypete

The musings of a Londoner, now living in Norfolk

Vegan Books For Children

books from Little Chicken, Honestly Books and Violet's Vegan Comics

Catherine Meyrick

Historical Fiction with a touch of Romance

Silver Screenings

an irreverent blog of old movies

My Life as an Artist (2)

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Violet's Vegan Comics

Virtual Vegan Comics for Children

Two Rooms Plus Utilities

Written from the heart, this is the unadulterated truth of live with multiple chronic illnesses and being housebound. My life open for you to follow. Please join me

kickingthecat

How current policy is little more than kicking the cat....

Matt's History Blog

Hopefully interesting snippets and thoughts

David Hencke

Westminster and Whitehall news investigations

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

BRIDGET WHELAN writer

August is archive month. Posts from the past

P.A. Moed

Creative Exploration in Words and Pictures

creartfuldodger

collage/mixed media artist

My Dad Is A Goldfish

Caring for a demented dad

Scope's Blog

Scope exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Until then, we'll be here.

Art Farm of a Country Woman

Painting My World with My Heart

e-Tinkerbell

Literature, books , sport and whatever intrigues me

AT A GENTLE PACE - Bridget Whelan's lifestyle travel blog

for people who would try anything except whitewater rafting (probably)

reviewdonkey

My personal opinions about.......stuff (as if you care!)

A Teacher's Reflections

Thirty Years of Wonder

The Theatre Guild Newsletter

Celebrating 98 years on Broadway!

Pen and Pension

Immerse yourself in Georgian and Regency England

Scleroderma Guy

It's Not A Life Sentence. It's A Life. Sentence

%d bloggers like this: