A refreshing revival of Oscar Wilde's farcical favourite, The Importance of Being Earnest, Split Second Productions' tiny but talented cast of two is outstanding, with Berkeley Castle providing a backdrop as brilliant as the show itself.
Walking into Berkeley Castle’s Great Hall, the scene was well and truly set for a first-class show – in every sense of the word – with chaise longue, dainty cucumber sandwiches, a large bottle of champagne, and backdrop of classical music.
A comedy that involves characters living double lives, Split Second Productions’ cast of two, Alex Hooper and Jack Coleby, surely had a difficult task ahead of them, playing an incredible four characters each. But whether it was gender switching, changing accents or sharing the role of the formidable Lady Bracknell, the flawless pair rose to the task.
The well-known story follows best friends Algernon Moncrieff and Jack Worthing, both of whom have alternative personalities to suit their needs; Bunbury in the country and Earnest in the city, respectively. And thus, the confusion, comedy and character changes begin.
Offering an ingenious twist on a classic, the lightening-quick changes enhanced the play’s natural comedy, with both actors switching between idle gentlemen, dominating mother and prancing ladies, perfectly – as reflected in the audience’s continuous laughter.
A satirical comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest encompasses farce, mistaken identities and convoluted lies, offering all the ingredients for a laugh-out-loud show – and Split Second Productions did justice to Oscar Wilde’s hilarious story.
A personal highlight was Alex Hooper’s gloriously feminine portrayal of Cecily Cardew; flouncing around and adopting facial expressions that were just perfect, the persona got some of the loudest laughs of the night.
Meanwhile the duo’s shared role of Lady Bracknell was a brilliant idea, complementing the farcical comedy of the story and breaking down the fourth wall with the audience.
Interacting as best friends, rival women fighting over the ‘same man’, and prospective suitor facing his mother-in-law to be, both actors were simply brilliant.
Full of silliness, quick wit and physical comedy, the show incorporated simple but effective means to make the audience laugh; a fight over an English muffin was delightfully trivial, as was Algernon’s craving for cucumber sandwiches.
Aside from their comic prowess, the two actors showcased their talent from the first cup of tea to the final embrace, delivering all the laughs you’d expect from Oscar Wilde’s story, but with an exciting new twist.
The magnificent setting of Berkeley Castle complemented Oscar Wilde’s comedy to perfection; a gloriously grand setting for a quintesentially British story about high society. And with other local venues including Blackfriars Priory, Cheltenham Ladies’ College and Westonbirt House, audiences are in for a treat wherever they see the show.
Whether you’re familiar with the story or not, Split Second Productions’ performance promises to make you smile; prepare for laughter, confusion and the lasting question of whether it’s that important to be ‘Earnest’…
Friday 04 May 2018
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