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The Importance is one of the gold-plated plays of history, Wilde’s imperishable masterpiece encapsulating his genius and immortal wit. The English think wit trivial, so Irishman Wilde safely used it to mask the seriousness of his observations on the paradoxical rules of English society, and invented a trick which makes the play new for every generation. To great comic effect the old here try to prevent the young from learning what by instinct they’ve already guessed. Set by Director Gerry Hinks in the twenties instead of Wilde’s gay nineties, the device works well with plenty of nice touches.
Rob Pass plays Algernon Moncrieff the enthusiastic rule-breaker as a monocled toff with a silly ass drawl. His friend Jack Worthing’s role is harder to bring off. The difference between the men is that like Wilde, Algy simply laughs at society and enjoys scrapes, while Jack breaks the rules but is terrified of being found out. It’s hard not to make Jack an unctuous hypocrite who is simply dull, but Tom McCarron has grown in stature as an actor since I last saw him and here he finds considerable comedy in the role by alternating eagerness for the secret delights enjoyed more openly by Algy with a comic terror at being found out.
Both men are greatly helped by the actresses cast as their love interest. Miriam Edwards as Gwendoline is a real find, vivacious, pert and quite simply sexy, who knows this, and intends to expoit it to the full. Lindsey Carr is similarly delightful as the supposedly demure and innocent Cecily, Jack’s ward, kept in the classroom to protect her from the wicked world. Miss Carr perfectly captures the artlessness of a young girl who has been brought up to know nothing and who of course, by osmosis, knows everything.
The older generation are represented by Sandra Jones as a supremely business-like Lady Bracknell, a splendidly dotty Miss Prism (Alison Joynes) and a really great Canon Chasuble, Gerry Hinks with a distracted ecclesiastical air and a slightly disturbing twinkle. Special mention however must go to Kelvin Broomhead who comes close to stealing the show, first as Algernon’s lugubrious butler Lane and then in a brilliant miniature characterisation as Jack’s impossibly aged footman Merriman.
The production runs until October 2. For tickets phone the Garrick box office on 01543 412121 or go online at www.lichfieldgarrick.com.
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