Wednesday, 17 February 2016

"A Woman Of No Importance" by Oscar Wilde
Lace Market Theatre

It was with Wilde anticipation that i went to see this production at the Lace Market Theatre, as it was only just over a week ago that I saw "The Importance Of Being Earnest" here in Nottingham, and when you see the two in close proximity you appreciate the way that Wilde writes with such wit and characterization. He has a style of writing that every one can understand and recognise and if he were alive today he would a brilliant stand up comedian or sitcom writer.

Wilde  explores the double standards that existed between men and women in the Victorian Era. Men were forgiven for their indiscretions far more readily than women, and women were more condemned for moral failings. Women had few rights, as well. The plot is very simple, but it is the psychological interactions between the characters that reveal a darker side to the Victorian Era.

Gerald Arbuthnot has been offered a job by Lord George Ellingworth and is over the moon about the new position but his mother, Mrs Arbuthnot doesn't seem to be too pleased that her only son is moving up in the world. Now why would that be? What has she against Lord Ellingworth?

Director Dan Maddison has done a brilliant job ensuring that all the wit of Wilde is presented with timing, not rushing the plot, in fact the plot unwound nice and steadily around the main plot line with the Arbuthnots and Ellingworth. The interim stories and characters drawing you in to the reason as to how, and why the bombshell is dropped when it was.

A simple but effective set non detracting from the story and characters but just enough to flesh out the scenes and make them visually attractive. Designed by David Hope he added to the feel of the Victorian era with class.

A fairly large cast for a Wilde play but with wonderful character. Take for instance Lady Pontefract, played beautifully with dry comic humour by Beverley Anthony. She's always got her eye on her husband, for whom she knows what is best for him, and attempts to keep him on a short leash. A wonderful matriarchal role.

John Anthony plays Lord Pontefract, the hen-pecked husband. There is a lovely realism between the two characters, which could be because away from the theatre, they are husband and wife.

Ruth Page plays the outspoken and slightly opinion laden American Hester Worsley. I was impressed by the accent because so many times there is a tendency to try and slightly over do an American accent and it sounds forced, but Ruth nailed it.

Eileen Frier-Kelsey played Lady Hunstanton with marvellous class befitting a character of such Victorian standing. The character is one of those that you really warm to, in a story where several of the characters are, shall we say, "stuck up" and self important.

Gerald, is played by Nick Parvin, and gets to portray a varied array of emotion in this role. From the excitement of his job offer, through naievity shown by his chat with his future employer about women, to his emotional outburst and protectiveness to his mother. Not as simple as the role first seems due to the complexity of the situation forced upon him.

I loved the role of Mrs Allonby, played by Amy Farmer. Very flirtatious at a time where this maybe wasn't the correct attitude for a lady to take. there's a very wordy passage that Amy has to deliver which was performed excellently and drew a well deserved, mid play show of appreciation from the audience. the twinkle in Amy's eye, even though befitting the character, I feel was because she loves playing this kind of confident female role.

Mrs Allonby's best friend, Lady Stutfield was played by Tilda Stickley and added a nice dollop of comedy to the play with her character's manner of speaking.

Stephen Herring played the flirty Mr Kettle, sorry Kelvil, who also got the rough end of Lady Pontefract's tongue.

The part of Lord Ellingworth was played so convincingly and with such confidence in the script by Guy Evans. The speeches delivered with such gusto and the arrogance of the dandy character was brought to the fore wonderfully.

Mrs Arbuthnot is played by Kay Harrison and what a lovely, emotional and tender performance she gives here. It makes you wonder how Mrs Arbuthnot and Lord Ellingworth were teamed up by Wilde, as the characters are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and this is shown without doubt in this performance.

Other roles were played by Thomas Broadbent as Farquhar, Peter Hillier as The Archdeacon, who also has some funny retorts to share, and Olga Karaiosif as Alice the maid. Oscar winning performances by all and thoroughly enjoyed by an almost full theatre, which is always good to see on a local amateur level.

It's everything you'd expect from an Oscar Wilde play. Very classy, very funny and some brilliant costumes as well, thanks to Barry Holland, Doreen Hunt and Doreen Sheard.

"A Woman of No Importance" is on at the Nottingham Lace Market Theatre until Saturday 20 February 2016.

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