Your Chance Productions.
You know when you you find a little gem in a place that you thought you knew like the back of your hand? Well that's been my experience tonight. Over at the Studio Theatre in College Street in Nottingham the wonderfully witty "The Importance Of Being Earnest" is being performed by Your Chance Productions. But you only have until 10 February 2016 to discover this particular little gem.
Wilde's titillating tale of deceit and moral values is performed to perfection by this small and relatively new theatre group, which is also like a supergroup of some of the other amateur theatre groups in and around Nottingham.
Jack is smitten by Gwendolyn and best friend, Algernon, is also pretty smitten by Cecily, who is Jack/Ernest's ward. Gwendolyn's mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell has to give her permission for Jack to marry Gwendolyn, but it's not that simple, well it never is, is it? And when Algernon turns up unexpected at Jack's country estate and meets Cecily, under the guise of Ernest, Jack's imaginary brother, when the cat is sure to be let out of the bag sooner rather than later.
Sally Nix (Jack) presents the character as cautious and slightly nervous,well Jack does have a few secrets that he hoped wouldn't be discovered, but is by Algernon, played by Chris Collins. Both Sally and Chris bounce comically off of each other; the comic lines in abundance and while there are so many witty one liners, the pace kept up by these two are almost break-neck, but not that fast paced as to lose the comic timing between the two characters. Both wonderfully and frightfully likeable characters played out just right.
Gwendolyn, played by Victoria Murphy is another wonderful character driven role. Slightly aloof but great fun. Victoria's eyes twinkling with the excitement that the role brings to the story.
Becky Statham (Cecily) really works the role with her face. Strange thing to say, I know but her expressions express every emotion going. from the spitefully playful and jealous emotions when she thinks that Gwendolyn is engaged to her Algernon/Ernest to the joy when she finds out that she has her very own Ernest. A wonderfully expressive actress who is a joy to watch.
Lady Bracknell has to be the hardest character to play, especially for a younger actress like Rhiannon Franks, but she manages to bring forth the upper class snobbishness beautifully. A character role beyond Rhiannon's years and a massive comedy role for her which she really succeeds in pulling off.
The guardian of Cecily, Miss Prism, who for anyone who doesn't know the story is the linchpin as well, is played by Jane Robertson, another lovely character actress.
Ian Bennett, who will be a familiar face on the Nottingham am dram stages plays Dr Chasuble, who also gets his gal in Miss Prism and Imogen Lea doubles up as the servant maids, Lane and Mary. understated and loyal to her respective masters.
I loved the pace of this play and director, Jessica McLean set the pace spot on.I overheard another audience member say that you can't go far wrong with "Earnest", but of course you can if you don't have the calibre of actor and this group got the calibre of actor just right. This play is all about pace on a technical level and the gaps and pauses are just as important, at times, as the script. Any comedy actor will tell you that it's all about timing and the timing and pace was simply the best.
The set was minimal but that again was good as it made you concentrate on the actor and the words. The props worked well and were relative looking to the era, as were the costumes.
This particular performance was up there with the best of them and I have seen several variations of the play over the last few years. This was loyal to the script and characters, showing that you don't need to play around with a good script and characters.
It may not be a crime to "bunbury" about and deceive others but what is a crime is that there were not more audience members. You've only got two more chances to see this very funny show at the Studio Theatre on College Street until Wednesday 10 February 2016.