Tag Archives: Luke Adamson

Th'Importance of Bein' Earnest

Th’Importance of Bein’ Earnest
★★★

Drayton Arms Theatre

ThImportance of Bein Earnest

Th’Importance of Bein’ Earnest

Drayton Arms Theatre

Reviewed – 21st February 2019

★★★

 

“Though it may be a bit rough, this show is the sort of creative flare that keeps London theatre exciting”

 

Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a comedy of manners set in London during the 1890s. In their adaptation, LKT Productions have jumped the play one hundred years forward and two hundred miles north, to a York council estate in the 1990s. It’s the same playtext transposed to a world completely opposite to the one it was intended for.

Placing words meant for Victorian aristocrats in modern working-class mouths is a fascinating experiment by directors Luke Adamson and Toby Hampton. Whether it works or not is debatable. On the one hand, hearing Wilde’s grandiose lines in northern accents was fresh and fun. Designer Rachael Ryan has done first-rate work creating an aesthetic completely counter to the original: the set involves graffitied walls and plastic patio furniture. The kiddie pool is a great touch. The costumes feature animal prints, gold leggings, bum bags, and very large hoop earrings.

On the other hand, most of the play doesn’t make sense in a working-class scenario. Wilde’s play is specifically, explicitly, a satire of upper-class society. Adamson and Hampton make slight alterations in attempt to adjust the context, but they’re fighting the script at every turn. A clever choice to make ‘cucumber sandwiches’ slang for cocaine saves one particular exchange. A few word substitutions (e.g. bus stop instead of carriage) save others. But ultimately it’s a losing fight. The servants don’t make sense – the attempt to pass them off as flatmates doesn’t work. Jokes about dinner parties don’t fit. The fact that Gwendolyn’s parents are ‘Lord’ and ‘Lady’ is something the production seems to shrug at. The play is caught between a genuine desire for its characters to be working class, and surrendering to an alternate universe where lords and ladies wear joggers and speak in thick Yorkshire accents.

Despite the muddled world, the characters themselves relocate surprisingly well to a council estate. Heather Dutton as Gwendolyn and Millie Gaston as Cecily shine in particular. Translating the refined but fierce Gwendolyn to Dutton’s ‘won’t-take-shit’, ‘will-fight-you’ Gwendolyn works brilliantly. Gaston, in scrunchie and tracksuit, wonderfully brings out the snarky teenager in Cecily. There’s a lot that’s really smart about this wild reimagining.

The comedy though wasn’t quite at standard. I’ve witnessed certain lines take down the house in previous performances that simply passed by in this one. Lady Bracknell (Kitty Martin) has some of the funniest lines in the play, but many of them failed to land. There’s also an unfortunate choice to keep Lane and Merriman (both James King) in the scenes as silent background comedy. King’s physical jokes distract from the words, which is a shame, because King stuffing newspaper in his ears will never be as funny as Wilde’s lines.

LKT deserve all the props for their boldness in turning Wilde’s classic upside-down. Though it may be a bit rough, this show is the sort of creative flare that keeps London theatre exciting.

 

Reviewed by Addison Waite

Photography by Cam Harle

 

Drayton Arms Theatre

Th’Importance of Bein’ Earnest

Drayton Arms Theatre until 23rd February

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Are There Female Gorillas? | ★★★★ | April 2018
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee | ★★★★ | May 2018
No Leaves on my Precious Self | ★★ | July 2018
The Beautiful Game | ★★★ | August 2018
Baby | ★★ | October 2018
Jake | ★★★ | October 2018
Love, Genius and a Walk | | October 2018
Boujie | ★★★½ | November 2018
Out of Step | ★★ | January 2019
The Problem With Fletcher Mott | ★★★ | February 2019

 

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

 

One Last Waltz – 3 Stars

Waltz

One Last Waltz

Greenwich Theatre

Reviewed – 10th March 2018

★★★

“The actors’ energy is going into the objects, rather than each other and as a results it sucks out the intimacy”

 

Luke Adamson’s play about Alzheimer’s and old age, One Last Waltz returns to the Greenwich Studio Theatre. Mandy takes her mother Alice on a trip to Blackpool for one last dance in the Tower Ballroom – but Alice finds things have changed beyond recognition triggering a frightening realisation.

This has the makings of a great show. The script is both heartfelt and humorous, the characters well drawn and the cast are spirited. But it falls down thanks to one thing; there is simply too much stuff on the stage. The cast are way laden with things, each scene having a multitude of costume changes and props to show off. While in a show with a bigger budget, this attention to detail would be admirable, in a stripped back studio space it’s fatal. It affects the pace that too often drags and worse still comes to uncomfortable pauses. Every scene change, every action depends on positioning the props before the emotional beats. It’s pre-emptive and it’s just not necessary with a cast this talented. Most damningly they get in the way of the most important element of the play – the character relationships. The actors’ energy is going into the objects, rather than each other and as a results it sucks out the intimacy, undermining some of the key moments of the play.

I’ve seen plays where this is a bigger problem before, but none where it has left me so frustrated. Because this should be a brilliant review. This is a gentle, loving story with both genuine feeling and a message that is incredibly relevant. While occasionally drifting into exposition, on the whole the script is well plotted and nicely crafted to find the humanity and positivity in what could be a terrifying reality. The performers are all excellent. Amanda Reed’s Alice is charming, giving the character real strength even in the moments where her memory starts to play tricks. Julia Faulkner’s Georgette is a buzzing comic antidote, never allowing the play to dwell too long in its own sobriety and Julie Binysh’s devoted Mandy anchors the piece with her down to earth, pragmatic optimism as she deals with both the loss of her father and the decline of her mother. But too often the direction gets in their way, and as a result the relationships feel unearned. In the confrontation on Blackpool beach, I knew what I should feel but it did not hit home.

This is not a bad night at the theatre by any means. But it is annoying when you see how much better it could be. This is a beautiful piece – it just needs to trust its performers and literally get out of its own way.

 

Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com

 

Greenwich Theatre London Logo

One Last Waltz

Greenwich Theatre until 17th March

 

 

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