Javeenbah Theatre Company’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a riotous romp through the witty words of the timeless Oscar Wilde with a soundtrack jampacked with 80s bops. This production takes the classic text and turns it on its head, reimagining Wilde in the 1980s; and it is a triumph.
Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest was first performed at St James’s Theatre in London in 1895. Since then, it has become Wilde’s most popular play by far and has not only been staged countless times but also received three separate film adaptions.
The Importance of Being Earnest follows two young men, Algernon and Jack, as they attempt to escape societal obligations through the creation of false personas. Jack evades his life in the country by becoming Earnest in the city where he can pursue his interest in Gwendolen. But when Algernon learns of Jack’s beautiful young ward, Cecily, in the country, he leaves the city to become Earnest in the country. The result is a hilarious case of identity swap as both Cecily and Gwendolen fall madly in love with their own ‘Earnest’; only neither of the men are called Earnest.
Wilde’s play is a farcical comedy that explores and challenges the ridiculousness of societal institutions and obligations featuring some of the most memorable quotes. If you are a fan of witty one-liners, do yourself a favor and purchase a copy of the audiobook or the paperback book.
Director and Designer, Liam Mathers, can be credited for Javeenbah Theatre Company’s unique take on this classic production. Liam’s passion for Wilde is palpable as he effectively moves the actors through the dense dialogue with a clear vision and carefully staged movement. It is the precision of Liam’s direction that keeps the audience enraptured throughout. Particularly so with the way that the actors move about the stage with clear purpose.
Liam’s innovative reimagining set to an 80s soundtrack complete with scrunchies, leg warmers and crazy coloured set design makes this a truly different version of Wilde’s classic. The set design for Algernon’s bachelor pad is classy and predominantly black and white. The use of vinyl records as a prop is a very nice touch. In particular, the set design for Jack’s country house is something truly remarkable; complete with that particularly recognisable set of yellow, orange, and green Tupperware that we all know and love (or loathe).
The costumes by Christine McLachlan are fabulously wacky and weird. In the second act, Cecily emerges in rollerblades, leg warmers, a neon green tutu with a matching scrunchy and earrings. Algernon and Jack appear in hilarious badminton gear and Gwendolen later emerges in a neon pink tutu to match Cecily’s. This design is so refreshing and beautifully executed. The final act features Algernon and Jack in matching neon coloured green and purple track suits which are simply divine. The costuming perfectly captures the campiness of Wilde.
Mix all this wonderful aesthetic design with three acts broken up by actors belting out fabulous 80s bops with creative choreography by Martina French and you have the masterpiece that is Javeenbah Theatre Company’s rendition of The Importance of Being Earnest.
Daniel Dosek’s portrayal of Jack is something truly special. Daniel is a very talented performer who manages to deliver Jack’s serious character with a uniquely comical twist. Daniel’s facial expressions are flawless and his gift for weaving words is dazzling. Daniel’s chemistry with Algernon (Jack Lovett) is simply captivating.
As Algernon, Jack Lovett is the perfect casting choice. He is both sarcastic and downright arrogant but at the same time undeniably lovable. Jack is a fantastic actor whose flair for the dramatic only serves to make Algernon everything that he is meant to be. Jack’s pacing and energy throughout the production carries many of the scenes forward.
Laura Coulton’s version of Gwendolen is perfectly persnickety and snobbish. Laura is a gifted actor with the ability to portray a spoiled, naïve rich girl with multifaceted layers. Laura’s performance makes Gwendolen a force to be reckoned with and gives her heart.
As Cecily, Chloe Smith is one of the absolute standout performers in this production. In some versions of Wilde’s play, Cecily comes across as a silly, vapid girl but not so with Chloe’s interpretation. Chloe manages to create a Cecily that is truly believable and yet somehow also ridiculously over the top. Chloe’s acting is pointed and precise. The motivation underlying the complex dialogue is strengthened by Chloe’s solid acting choices which makes for a very delightful Cecily.
No review of this production would be complete without mentioning the absolute star of the show, Brad Chapman as Lady Bracknell. Brad’s rendition of the stuck-up Lady Bracknell is everything an audience could want and so much more. Brad is a most outstanding actor who is as poised in heels and classy women’s suits as he struts the stage as any respectable woman of society should be. Brad is an absolute delight to watch on stage and the audience relish every moment of Lady Bracknell’s diatribes about what is and isn’t proper in society. Bravo!
The production also features Phillip Victor as the buttoned-up Dr Chasuble and Martina French as Miss Prism. Philip and Martina share excellent chemistry and are both highly skilled performers who provide their own unique take on these well-known characters.
Appearing only in the first act is the hilarious Nathan French as Lane. Even though Nathan is nowhere to be seen in act two and three, his character remains fondly in the memory long after the show ends. Nathan is highly entertaining and a very talented performer who brings his own unique comedic approach to this small supporting role.
Rounding out this fabulous cast is Jessica White and Alyssa Burnett as Merriman 1 and 2. These two actors barely get to utter a single word throughout this very wordy play and yet they both manage to bring energy and comedy to every scene in which they appear.
In a nutshell, Javeenbah Theatre Company’s quirky take on Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Being Earnest is a dazzling display of camp, witty, energetic dialogue set to a gorgeous 80s soundtrack on a stunningly designed 80s set with crazy costumes and a spectacularly talented cast. This is a production that you will not want to miss!
The Importance of Being Earnest is playing now until the 4th of December. So make sure you book your tickets now! You can also keep up with everything this local theatre company is getting up to over Christmas and in 2022 by following them on Facebook or Instagram.