The Importance of Being Earnest

Thu 19th – Sat 21st June 2014


Elizabeth Spence

at 09:55 on 20th Jun 2014



Cucumber sandwiches and plenty of cross dressing - the perfect May week show.

We'd been waiting for it all week, but the sun finally shone over this Heywood society production, performed among the fruit trees of Peterhouse Deer Park. The imposing backdrop of the Fitzwilliam Museum gave every impression that we really were in the garden of a country estate somewhere definitely not in Hertfordshire .

There wasn't a weak link among the cast and in many ways I preferred this production to the 2002 film adaptation, starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth. Lauren Brown's sensual interpretation of Gwendolyn and Robert Eyers' delightful Miss Prism perfectly reflected the triviality of the script, rather than descending into pantomime. Rox Middleton's performance as Jack was endearing and you know it's a good production when even the butler is played by a Tab legend.

Perhaps it was because I am about to leave our dear Cambridge for the great unknown that is the Year Abroad, but this play seemed to encapsulate Britishness. Wilde's play is, of course, the perfect romcom and the Heywood Society's production shows that little has changed in the past century. Any Oxbridge references were sure to draw laughs, especially Lady Bracknell's defence of her nephew's innocence: 'Untruthfu! My nephew Algernon? Impossible! He is an Oxonian.'

Although the production was supposedly sold out, the relatively small audience, lounging on picnic blankets and feeling slightly fuzzy after a week of Pimm's formed an intimate unit, revelling in their freedom and willing the cast to make them laugh. The hardships endured by the actors were easy to relate to - grass stains on their chinos, being silenced by a mouth full of cucumber sandwich - and the bravado with which they coped with the occasional missed line or mislaid prop was admirable.

In general the tech functioned well - don't be put off by the discordant keyboard rendition of 'My Favourite Things' at the beginning - it's deliberate. The cast adapted to their outdoor stage, thoughtfully pausing while a jet plane droned overhead, although the director should note the near invisibility of characters rolling around on the floor in this un-tiered seating area.

So good and so Cambridge. I'm just off to add my mark to Oscar Wilde's lipstick-emblazoned Paris tombstone.


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