The Importance of Being Earnest Adapted by Lisa Norriss and Daniel Allan, Body In Space, Fairfield House meadow, Tuesday January 22.
Oscar Wilde's likely to be dancing on his grave at what this zany troupe has done with his late-Victorian comedy of manners. Or was that him I heard chortling on the breeze wafting among the old trees round this magic space? Impossible to tell with all the chortling going on among the crowds of adults and children lolling about enjoying the show as the sun went down on a perfect summer evening. The almost uncontrollable giggling of one young woman did become a concern, however.
Have another cucumber sandwich. Cucumber sandwiches figure large in this production, which in its way is a spoof on a spoof, a send-up of Wilde's 1895 send-up of Victorian English social traditions.
Shorter than the Wilde version, this one features some very funny original music, with the basic plot pretty much true to the original as two inventive young men, Algernon (Hamish Parkinson) and Jack (Daniel Allan) strive to win two young women who pin great stock on the name Ernest.
Allan, Parkinson, Laura Irish and Roger Sanders each relish their several inter-changeable roles with some scenes of hilarious slapstick. The script is peppered with famous quotes delivered with great farcical aplomb and precision, especially by Sanders who takes the cake in carrying off Lady Bracknell's convoluted dialogue and demeanour.
Even the cardboard set and props drip irony, reinforcing the point that appearance is all, never mind the substance.
Apart from a fidgety few minutes late in the first half, pace and timing, coupled with the players' terrific audience rapport, kept all captivated, helped by clever crossovers like checking Wikipedia, rap breakouts, velcro and chaotic improvised bits.
I have read that Wilde "transformed standard nonsense to a higher form". Here it is lifted higher still to an art form all its own.
The Importance of Being Earnest continues at 6.30pm, in the meadow at Fairfield House until Friday, January 25.
- © Fairfax NZ News