Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Importance Of Being Interesting

Prior to the Whingers’ bash on the weekend I managed to squeeze in a trip to Jermyn Street Theatre. If you’ve not had the pleasure, this is a little basement theatre tucked beneath the Getti Restaurant, kind of charming in its own way despite some of the most cramped seating of any fringe venue I’ve been to. Indeed the two men sitting beside me had to resort to some increasingly elaborate seat gymnastics to retain blood flow in their lower limbs. At least that’s what I assume they were up to.

The current production is a revival of The Importance Of Being Earnest, a play of such comic perfection it would take a fairly determined director to make a hash of it. And this staging, by the fringe company Antic Disposition, does indeed avoid anything resembling a hash-making. In fact, theirs is a pleasant, conventional, entirely competent production. Straight, solid and safe. Determinedly dependable. Do you see a pattern emerging? The only vaguely novel element in this version was the casting of James Pellow as the fearsome Lady Bracknell, but even this bit of cross-gender casting malarkey seemed a tad obvious, and Pellow’s performance felt rather subdued.

There was nothing very wrong with the production, the acting was decent, and the audience chuckled in all the right places. It’s just that there was nothing there likely to make it stick in the memory, nothing to make you poke your friends repeatedly on the shoulder, when you meet for a drink afterwards, and annoy them by saying: “you really must go and see this show.” (The way I did after seeing Ridiculusmus’ frenetic two-man staging of the play). Maybe I’m being too harsh. Not everything has to be daring and rule-bending. Or have a singing polar bear. But there should be a spark - of life, of love for the text, of something – and there simply wasn’t one discernable here.

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