The Importance of Being Earnest presented by Pan Productions
What is it? Pan Productions stages classic play The Importance of Being Earnest, ‘played by immigrants’
What is it all about?
Set in late Victorian England, both Jack and Algernon pose as Earnest, Jack’s made up brother to woo Gwendolen and Cecilia. A comedic, almost farcical look at identity.
How did it make me feel?
Director Aylin Bozok certainly throws a lot at this production. There are some lovely moments of clever direction like when actors are pulled on stage in a trance-like state and are surprised when they arrive, and with small glimpses of the actors’ mother tongues. However most choices fall flat. Because they are not properly explored they do nothing to subvert the hugely misogynistic and outdated script. Throughout the play anachronism is rife, mobile phones instead of diaries, kindles and modern costume. This is at times extremely confusing and is not strong enough of a device to make up for the incest and sexism that the plot is based on. Duncan Rowe who plays Algernon Moncrieff is the strongest of the cast, especially when he is playing alongside Glykeria Dimou as Cecily Cardew. They have a wonderful chemistry that is instantly engaging. Louis Pottier-Arniaud also gives a lot to his role of Jack Worthing, but Jack and Algernon’s friendship is not properly established so it is a little underwhelming when it eventually falls apart. The only real weak link was the decision to replace the characters of Lane and Marriman with an omnipotent maid played by Nea Cornér, who is always onstage and always fighting for attention. Cornér’s choice to vie for the limelight made her character extremely unlikable, a real shame as it was one of the few directorial decisions that worked. The cast would have been able to shine a lot more if they weren’t doing faux RP accents, the world of this play is already so unbelievable I don’t think a French accent or two would have made much difference. It was interesting to see the effect of the overbearing nature of English art in foreign media as every actor made fun of the Queen’s English trope with ease but we so rarely get to see theatre made by immigrants in London I would much rather they went against the British choke-hold than lean in to it.
In general plays about tricking vulnerable women in to marriage shouldn’t have any place on stage. Pan Productions wanted to make a link between the identities in The Importance of Being Earnest and their own identities as ex-pats in London but fell short of making that point. This was a missed opportunity to see some exciting new writing from an immigrant point of view.
The Importance of Being Earnest is playing at the Tower Theatre until the 18th January 2020.
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