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IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (article first published : 2001-11-2)

That old Wilde comedy – boring! An Edwardian period piece – yawn! A play written around the dreary old name of Earnest – get a life! All these reactions can be expected from today’s Durban theatre audiences, well known for finding excuses to remain unchallenged. An attitude of “been there, done that”, seen it before - what’s the point of seeing it again?

Every point - in the case of KickstArt’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

Judging from the delighted and ongoing spontaneous response from a group of high school pupils in the audience last night, Garth Anderson’s direction is right up to the minute with KickstArt’s production of Oscar Wilde’s classic. This bright, sparkling and immaculately costumed production shimmering with Wilde’s pithy and amusing dialogue admirably suits a performance in the round and the intimate area of the Square Space lends itself well to audience-performer relationship

Wilde himself wrote that The Importance of Being Earnest was “exquisitely trivial” and that it preached the philosophy that all things trivial should be taken seriously and vice versa. Garth Anderson has skilfully edited the play down to three acts while retaining the maximum amount of humour.

Putting in quite the best performance I have ever seen from him is Greg King as Jack - or Earnest as he is known in the City. Thanks to Garth’s penetrating direction, he may now rightly take his place among the ranks of Durban’s excellent young actors such as Greig Coetzee, Ben Vos and Michael Gritten. Following close behind with an equally good performance is Richard Swift, an actor I have not seen perform for a long while who has now acquired a good stage command and easy sense of comedy.

Belinda Harward is impressive as the wide-eyed and much-opinionated Gwendolen and Stacey Taylor is charming as the gauche and hoydenish Cecily. Making a welcome appearance on the Durban stage is Pietermaritzburg-based Vera Clare as the daunting Lady Bracknell – nicely controlled as this is a part easily overplayed.

Garth Anderson is utterly delightful as both the cheerful Canon Chasuble and the lugubrious and plodding Merriman. Alison Cassels is suitably gushy as the governess with lusty designs on Chasuble and Peter Taylor makes a laconic Lane who is prone to take the odd nip of sherry.

KicksArt’s mission is to bring quality theatre to KZN. This is its second production, the first being the now cult black comedy thriller Popcorn.

The Importance of Being Earnest will run in the Square Space Theatre at the University of Natal’s Durban campus until November 10. Book at Computicket and there are special concessions for pensioners, students, and scholars and weekend matinee performances. – Caroline Smart

You approach the Square Space as you would the Pieter Scholtz Open Air Theatre and simply follow the signs.




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