The Importance of Being Earnest

WRITTEN BY: Oscar Wilde
DIRECTED BY: Kate Cherry
STARRING: Scott Sheridan, Stuart Halusz, Jenny Davis, Rebecca Davis, Adriane Daff
RATING: 4.5 stars

Few playwrights can engage an audience with as much wit and charm in their dialogue like Oscar Wilde. Whether it is through sarcasm or social reflections, Wilde knows how to humour an audience. The Importance of Being Earnest is a beloved play that was first performed in London in 1895. Perth's Black Swan State Theatre Company has made the bold and yet wise choice of opening its 2013 season with the classic in the capable hands of director Kate Cherry.

The comedy of manners deals expertly with mistaken identities, love, social standing and stereotypes. Algernon (Scott Sheridan) and Jack (Stuart Halusz) are best friends who both have different identities in London and in the countryside. When Jack proposes to Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen (Rebecca Davis), and Algernon begins to woo Jack’s ward Cecily (Adriane Daff), both use the pseudonym Ernest. But there are many obstacles to their romances and none more complex than the intimidating Lady Bracknell (Jenny Davis).

The cast of eight is made up entirely of West Australian actors and features many well known faces such comedian Pete Rowsthorn, of Kath and Kim fame, playing Reverand Canon Chasuble, as well as Michael Loney playing two butlers and Pauline Whyman as Miss Prism. Rowsthorn in particular manages to get lots of laughs. Jenny Davis, who is a stalwart of the Perth theatre scene, is very good and delivers her lines with conviction. Rebecca Davis was probably the weakest cast member and perhaps over-acted in parts. But her scenes with Daff were very good. Both Sheridan and Halusz were engaging and entertaining. They had great chemistry together.

The set design was relatively simple, with only three main sets, but one in particular literally drew gasps of awe from the audience. The garden set was beautiful, bright and utilised well. Set designer Alicia Clements did a great job with the stage space. The costumes by Lynn Ferguson were also elegant.

Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest is playing at Perth's Heath Ledger Theatre at the State Theatre Centre until March 28.

Adriane Daff in The Importance of Being Earnest. Image by Robert Frith.