Importance that gets the essentials right
LONDON Classic Theatre specialise in presenting solid, well-established plays with gimmick-free excellence. They continue the good work here.
The only disappointment in this Importance – and it's a slight one – is the spartan set. On the other hand, this approach encourages proper concentration on the acting.
Algernon (Ashley Cook), surely the Wilde figure, is not just degenerate: he's a major source of epigrams. In contrast is the less worldly Jack (Paul Sandys). Their opening scene establishes an admirable pace, which is sustained. And the fact that neither of them allows essential affected mannerism to spill over into camp is a huge plus.
Their ladies, too, are nicely differentiated. Helen Keeley's Gwendolen is knowing, sexy and assertive – she'll be like Lady B when she gets older. Cecily (Helen Phillips) is younger and less worldly.
It's all a matter of taste, but arguably Judith Paris (Lady Bracknell) gets that handbag retort wrong, redeeming herself with a wonderful "The line is immaterial!" She's particularly effective in the recognition scene at the end.
It would have been pleasing to hear/see Laoisha O'Callaghan making more of her real Irish accent as Miss Prism; but she's excellent all the same. Peter Cadden plays Canon Chasuble splendidly, as a muscular Christianity man with side-whiskers. Jonathan Ashley's Lane is all black eyebrows. His Merriman is a decrepit old retainer.
One trusts this company, directed by Michael Cabot, will maintain this standard.