Tag Archives: Charlotte Beaumont

The Importance of Being Earnest

Watermill Theatre

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 27th May 2019



“an inventive new take on an old favourite”


Should we care about ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’? Oscar Wilde’s best-known play about misplaced identities was written at the height of his fame. His brilliant wit shines in every scene and the piece features that line about a piece of left luggage that is probably as much quoted as ‘to be or not to be’.

The Watermill’s new production partly attempts to prove its relevance by setting the play in a contemporary apartment, which is all dull grey minimalism, and in the opening scene, decorated with a road traffic cone. It’s the kind of achingly trendy place that’s all concealed doors and cupboards, with a big Morris wallpaper feature wall, which in Sally Ferguson’s lighting design is cleverly lit to match the mood. At the start of the play the set seemed simply incongruous, lacking the glitz that might be expected of a London socialite’s pad. Weirdly, the cups are paper and the plates foil, a kind of knowing send-up that seemed just odd in the first half, but made perfect sense in the second when the play takes a surreal turn. The almost empty apartment does however come complete with a fully-liveried butler, played with glassy-eyed determination by the impressive Morgan Philpott. He begins and ends the show, as well as sustaining a crowd-pleasingly clever running gag throughout it that calls for the most impeccable timing.

So the scene is set for an inventive new take on an old favourite, as much beloved of amateur productions as it is of countless high profile cinema and stage versions. The lead, Algernon, is played by a splendidly gangling Peter Bray (RSC and the Globe). Wilde seems to have put most of himself into this ‘Bunburying’ young fop who gets some of the best lines. Bray more than rises to the challenge. As Jack, Benedict Salter is also excellent. In a splendid piece of direction by the very inventive Kate Budgen, Bray and Salter perform a kind of mad pas-de-deux to a Liszt piano concerto in a scene about muffins. ‘I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them’. Much has been written about the gay sub-text, in a play which was written when to be ‘earnest’ was to be gay. What with the Bunburying and cucumbers for ready money, it certainly doesn’t lack in innuendo, and this was nicely handled in this production.

Both young men and their female opposite numbers, Gwendolen (Claudia Jolly) and Cecily (Charlotte Beaumont), are splendidly dressed in period costumes. Wilde’s young women may be trapped in a suffocating Victorian system where a woman’s marriage is more about money than love, but his characters shine in these interpretations. Charlotte Beaumont in particular has a kind of winningly mad insistence, that in the second half almost took the play into Lewis Carroll territory.

And what of Lady Bracknell’s ‘handbag’ line, so famously delivered with ringing disdain by Edith Evans, then whispered by Maggie Smith in a role also played by Judi Dench and even David Suchet? Connie Walker certainly brings the ‘gorgon’ to life in her commanding interpretation. Wendy Nottingham makes a suitably dowdy Miss Prism, and Jim Creighton is a satisfying Dr Chasuble.

‘To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of modern life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution’. Just for lines like this, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is more than worth the price of a ticket. This fresh and inventive new production at the Watermill makes it more than doubly so.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Philip Tull


The Importance of Being Earnest

The Watermill Theatre until 29th June



The Watermill Theatre – winner of our 2018 Awards – Best Regional Theatre


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
The Rivals | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | April 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★★ | May 2018
Jerusalem | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Trial by Laughter | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jane Eyre | ★★★★ | October 2018
Robin Hood | ★★★★ | December 2018
Murder For Two | ★★★★ | February 2019
Macbeth | ★★★ | March 2019
Amélie | ★★★★★ | April 2019


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com


Review of Pebbles – 4 Stars




Reviewed – 24th October 2017



“Sanders confidently drove the story, transitioning from being controlled and restrained into a delightful emotional mess”


I had come to see Pebbles, the new play from Lidless Theatre, under the pretence that I was in for a night of hard-hitting, sombre bleakness, as I knew the play focussed on the theme of loneliness. How wrong I could have been. I was delightfully surprised to find myself belly laughing out loud to this witty, heart-warming tale of friendship and the humorous idiosyncrasies that come from a life in isolation.

Written by company member Bebe Sanders, Pebbles tells the story of Jonie (played by Sanders herself) who was born with some mysterious illness that makes her dangerous, and life threatening to other human beings she has contact with. For her own, and humankind’s safety, Jonie is sent up into space to live in isolation on an uninhabited, pebble-strewn planet. After hundreds of days out in the cosmos, Jonie keeps a strict, regimented structure to her day, noting observations into her Dictaphone about the minute changes to her desolate environment. Seemingly content with this way of life, it is not until Jonie’s path is crossed with fellow quarantined earthling Bryon (Charlotte Beaumont) that things start to fall apart, forcing Jonie to confront some of the emotions and memories that she had kept buried for so long.

Sanders and Beaumont give very strong performances as conflicting characters – Bryon’s happy-go-lucky, eccentric airs infuriates uptight, forward-focused Jonie. An opposing duo on a quest is a familiar template we have seen before, whether it is Vladamir and Estragon in Waiting For Godot, to even Shrek and Donkey. However, Pebbles still came across fresh as this inter-galactic caper focussed on the interactions of two young women, very far away from home. Charlotte Beaumont as Bryon was hilariously brilliant, full of quirks and extraordinary one-liners, whilst Bebe Sanders confidently drove the story, transitioning from being controlled and restrained into a delightful emotional mess, figuring out the power and relief talking to another person can bring.

There may have not been anything that profound within the play, however there were certainly some thought-provoking comments, for example, when Bryon ruminates over the idea of how we could be holding the hand of someone we deeply love and still feel utterly lonely – a reaction many of us have come to feel at some point in our lives I am sure. Sanders depicts with precision the antics of the human condition, bringing to life universal feelings such as hope, fear, emptiness and comfort that we can all relate to. This is what made Pebbles such a strong piece.

As light and jovial as the production was (note: running at only an hour long, it did not have the time to dig too deep) I came out feeling heart-warmingly touched by Jonie and Bryon’s friendship, proving that even out in space you don’t have to feel alone.



Reviewed by Phoebe Cole





is at Katzpace until 25th October



Click here to see a list of the latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com