Stimulating take on an English classic

The Importance of Being Earnest, The Clinton Centre, Seaford, February 13

The Synergy Theatre’s first production of 2015 coincided with the 120th anniversary of the opening of Oscar Wilde’s play in London on St Valentine’s Day 1885.

Director David Parton recognised this by arranging a traditional afternoon tea, served by cast members in costume to the audience prior to the performance on February 13.

Although Seaford’s Clinton Centre is hardly a grand London house of the Victorian era it was a charming gesture totally in keeping with the play. It is innovative touches such as this, with the manservant, Lane (Darren Heather) and the butler, Merriman (Ian Clegg), formally announcing the characters by name at the final curtain, that often set Synergy productions apart.

It was something of a pity therefore that the modern day appearance of the two main characters, John Worthing (Josh Impey), and Algernon Moncrieff (Peter Linsdell), did little to convey the formality of the period or the stuffiness and hypocrisy of society in the late nineteenth century. Eschewing elaborate scenery and props too, the production concentrated on characterisation and Wilde’s inimitable words. In this, it was a triumph of casting and timing.

The genteel young ladies, Gwendolen Fairfax (Kimberley Payne) and Cecily Cardew (Ella Dorman-Gajic), together with Lady Bracknell (Ann Mabey), confidently bounced epigrams off each other and their intended young men who, in return, gave as good as they got. Lady Bracknell’s incredulous “A handbag?” was to the manner born. John Hamilton as the Rev Canon Chausable, and Josie Hobbs as Cecily’s governess, Miss Prism, played their parts with aplomb.

The play has been dubbed triviality treated seriously, which includes the juxtaposition of the name ‘Ernest’, who both John and Algernon lay claim to, with the importance of being ‘Earnest’.

A stimulating performance of an all-time English classic.