Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest

Just back from seeing Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest at the Gaiety Theatre. Initial impressions: I enjoyed it. The acting was good, the set was fine, the way the set was changed for each new scene was superb, and the costumes varied from functional to utterly, shockingly, stunningly beautiful. The star actress, Stockard Channing (of The West Wing), wore two of the most impressive dresses I've ever seen. The red one was particularly striking; I immediately found myself thinking of Lady Gaga. (And yes of course that is a compliment. Lady Gaga's sense of style is second only to her musical talent.)

It's been a while since I've been to the theatre - I love the cinema - and I'm always a little anxious that older plays, written during very different times, will seem dull, worthy and outdated. I found with this performance that this wasn't a problem; sure, society has changed a lot, but not so much that we're unable to comprehend how it used to be or empathise with the characters. The specifics of social expectation and acceptance change, but it's not as if wealth or social class have become irrelevant.

The best measure of a comedy is simply whether it's funny, and it was. The dialogue is good - the play wouldn't still be performed if it weren't - but the actors to their credit added to the comedy. Channing's momentary difficulty in removing a scarf was either an exceptionally naturalist piece of acting or a wardrobe malfunction turned into a lovely bit of improvisation. Anyway, I enjoyed it. And so did the rest of the audience.

After the show I briefly had a look at what other reviewers had to say. One liked the set changes but concluded: "However, this ultimately remains a production that seems squarely pitched towards keeping a broad audience well satisfied." Wow, well there I was thinking that entertaining the audience was the point of the show. I was already familiar with the play, but as far as I'm concerned someone who's never even been to the theatre before should be able to enjoy a performance: and I'm sure that in this case, they would have.

Any negatives? I suppose the Gaiety could sell hot whiskey in the upstairs bar... but as for the play, no criticisms. It's everything Waiting for Godot isn't: funny, enjoyable, and worth seeing.