Skip to main content

Review of The Importance Of Being Earnest performed by The Masque Theatre at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

It is still a relatively rare event that I venture into the theatre environment knowing the play that I am about to see. However last evening for my latest trip to the wonderfully cute playhouse, Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest was one of those rare occasions. The latest Masque production, directed by Robert Kendall with a lively flair on the compact stage was once again going to provide a hugely enjoyable evening.

The Importance Of Being Earnest is an endlessly funny play of confusion, social commentary and farce, revolving around fake relations and false names which needs seeing rather than explaining.

Our opening characters are Algernon Moncrieff (Robin Armstrong) and his manservant Lane (a suitably droll Craig Macpherson). They comfortably set the scene of a typical upper class environment, with Robin a gloriously precise deliverer of his lines, eater of muffins and cucumber sandwiches. He also has a particularly perfect timing for the most rude and comical lines, oozing every effect from Wilde's witty dialogue. For much of the play he has the most perfect sparring partner in John Worthing, played by Josh Redding. Without any question the performance of the show, and easily for me one of the best single ones I have seen from Masque. He looks the part, sounds the part and facial expressions at times are simply side splitting brilliant. A professional standard performance if ever I have seen one in an amateur show, and one assuredly to watch in the future.

Holly Lowe, straight back from a wonderful Masque debut in Shaxpeare's Box is again quite brilliant. Bringing a sweet, yet devilishly cunning attitude to Gwendolen Fairfax. She is one of those actors that as an audience member, you frequently cannot take you eyes of as she just exudes fun. I actually hope soon to see what she can do with a more unlikable character.

Completing a trio of spectacular quality new young blood to Masque is Jade Wright as Cecily Cardew. Early on uncannily similar to Holly, she becomes much more confident as she begins sparring off to Holly's character. Just like Robin and Josh, these two are at their best when working together. Sparking off one another with glee.

For myself slightly less successful is the characterisation of Lady Bracknell by Jan Stoppani. There is a feel of slight hesitation in the performance (which could well be blamed on opening night) and I really didn't feel the playing was brusque enough. This is perhaps more a personal preference of the playing and may admittedly be confused by the last Lady Bracknell I saw being David Suchet. I did also have a slight reservation of the decision for the whole cast crying the classic "a handbag" line, although it did have some comic merit.

Mark Mortimer has once again created a wonderful backdrop for the play to weave is comical path out on. With the set moving smoothly from Algy's flat onto the drawing room at the Manor House via the garden. The garden in particular was wonderfully dressed with plentiful flora. On the production front, I also absolutely loved the collection of sounds as Worthing dug deep looking for a certain item. Great stuff.

So another absolutely cracking play from Masque keeping the standard very high. This is blessed with several performances of a very high standard. I am absolutely ready for the next Masque, where I understand the antics will be rather saucy. However, for now be earnest and catch this particular one while you can.

Performance reviewed: Tuesday 5th April, 2016 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton. 

The Importance Of Being Earnest is performed by the Masque Theatre and runs until Saturday 9th April, 2016 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton.

Details can be found at http://www.masquetheatre.co.uk/

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Blue/Orange at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

The challenging and socially relevant Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall was published in 2000 and back then, this caustic exploration of mental health, and more specifically black mental health issues, was a tremendously relevant play. When it debuted on stage in London, the cast of just three was played by Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Director James Dacre doesn't have those names to play with so much in his cast, however here, he has worked with the writer himself to rework the play for a more modern audience. Does it still shock, and is the relevance still there today? Sadly, perhaps, the answer is yes, as doctors Bruce Flaherty and Robert Smith come to verbal blows over the health of patient Christopher, at times, you feel 21 years shed little light on how mental health is approached. Many references in the script, still sit unquestionably in the year 2000, however, with this reworking, one thing has changed dramatically. In the original version of the play, the two

Review of Sister Act by the Northampton Musical Theatre Company at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

South Pacific at Royal & Derngate last year set a remarkable benchmark for an "amateur" production, with a large talented cast, superb vocals, sets and a polish up there with a professional production. Sister Act, this years production from the Northampton Musical Theatre Company was more of the same, but perhaps taken up a notch or two. Sister Act is a musical based on the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg comedy and was first performed in 2009. Written by Bill and Cheri Steinkellner, it is a likable and fun musical which genuinely came as a surprise to me. The opening scene at Curtis's Bar and Nightclub is to be honest not the best though and genuinely didn't fill me with much hope. It feels as if it gives nothing to the cast, although it creates the premise of the story coupled with the incident outside the bar. Likewise, I didn't take much to the Police Station scene either, so it didn't bode well. When we reach the Queen Of Angels Cathedral though, this show

Review of Shrek (NMTC) at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

Three and a half years ago, in a land far far away, in a world very different to the one we are now in, I saw the touring professional production of Shrek The Musical , it was a mixed bag of quality, tilted extremely heavily in favour of one particular character (not the one you might expect) and not firing on all cylinders much of the time. One and a half years after my last visit to the Derngate theatre, I return to see the homegrown Northampton Musical Theatre Company's own take on the very same show. Would they be able to breathe more life into the show than the professionals did in that distant land? It is a bit of a yes and no really. Pretty much all of this is done to the best possible standard, and at times, with being an amateur show you could easily forget, they all have normal day jobs. The show oozes professional quality at times. The set looks magnificent, the costumes (from Molly Limpet's Theatrical Emporium) are superb, and as ever with NMTC, the backstage team c