11.4 C
Harrow on the Hill
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
HomeNewsThe Importance of Being Earnest review: Harrow-based Hillplayers shine in Oscar Wilde’s...

The Importance of Being Earnest review: Harrow-based Hillplayers shine in Oscar Wilde’s classic high-society satire

A Wilde time was had at the Hillplayers’ production of The Importance of Being Earnest, Harrow Online’s Finley Harnett writes

Years ago, I studied Oscar Wilde’s classic play The Importance of Being Earnest for my English A Level. Ever since, I’ve associated the text with exams, revision, essays ‒ Wilde’s wit and frivolity was, perhaps unfairly, lost on me and my schoolmates. What a joy it was, then, to discover a newfound appreciation for Earnest via this fabulously fun production by the Harrow-based amateur dramatics group, the Hillplayers.

First performed in 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest has become the Irish playwright’s most well-known and acclaimed comedy. It is the tale of a pair of bachelors, Jack Worthing (played by Dan Levy) and Algernon Moncrieff (Marco Ball-Albarran), who invent alter egos named Ernest to escape their tiresome lives. In an attempt to win the hearts of two young women, Gwendolen Fairfax (Maria Wheeler) and Cecily Cardew (Abbie Abraham), Jack and Algy soon get tangled in their own deceit. The layers of mistaken identity baffle everyone concerned with amusing consequences.

A farcical plot provides ample opportunity for Wilde to send up Victorian sensibilities and, in particular, the English upper class. Earnest is a feast of Wilde witticisms and the Hill Players serve each of them up with gusto. My favourites: “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train”, and, “To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up”. There are so many sharply-written jokes to digest in one viewing ‒ I can’t have been the only audience member to have gone away and bought a secondhand copy of the text to take it all in again.

Director Diane Green’s traditional production does not attempt to reinvent Wilde’s classic. There are no gimmicks or radical reimaginings of the characters; the costume and set design (both well done) are quintessentially late Victorian. That approach works in this instance, allowing the cast to enjoy delivering Wilde’s play in its original context, which they do with great comic timing. It is a fantastic production for newcomers to Wilde, and for those, like me, who are reacquainting themselves with his work after a lengthy gap.

The Importance of Being Earnest review: Harrow-based Hillplayers shine in Oscar Wilde’s classic high-society satire Harrow Online
Earnest: Marco Ball-Albarran, Abbie Abraham and Dan Levy

The acting is impressive. Particular praise goes to Catherine McKenna, who has great fun playing the imposing Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen’s mother. Her exclamation of the infamous line, “A HANDBAG?!”, is second to none. Dan Levy as Jack and Marco Ball-Albarran as Algy carry the play as our trivial protagonists; I look forward to seeing them all in future Hillplayers shows.

This was my first Hillplayers show, and if this production is anything to go by, it certainly won’t be my last. Established in 2007, the Hillplayers are an ever-growing amateur dramatics group based around Harrow-on-the-Hill. If you’re interested in getting involved in the group, you can find out more information on their website. You can also give them a follow on Facebook here.

As the audience filtered outside the intimate, quaint East Lane Theatre and into the sunshine of Sudbury at the end of the play, every audience member I spoke to concurred with me: they had had a Wilde time. Well done to everyone involved in The Importance of Being Earnest for encouraging this writer to get back into Oscar Wilde after struggling with his works at school.

“A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal,” Wilde once wrote. He may have been a genius, but on this I think he was wrong. I sincerely loved the Hillplayers’ production of Earnest, and I encourage all Harrow Online readers to book tickets for their next show!

The Importance of Being Earnest review: Harrow-based Hillplayers shine in Oscar Wilde’s classic high-society satire Harrow Online
A Wilde connoisseur: Harrow Online’s Finley with Oscar Wilde (or at least a statue of him) in Merrion Square in Dublin, Ireland in April 2023

The Importance of Being Earnest was performed 8-10 June 2023 at the East Lane Theatre in Sudbury. You can view the Hillplayers website here.

×