The evening before I was due to see this production, a friend warned that I could write it without even seeing the play. ‘Pedestrian and predictable’. I am sorry to say his expectations were largely fulfilled.
Nearing the end of the year, there emerges a fervent partiality to partake in all things ‘Oxford’; Oscar Wilde remaining rather resolutely at the top of the thesp’s theatrical ‘to-do-list’. This isn’t a problem as such, but my contention is that if you are going to put on a Wilde play, please do something at least vaguely original.
Originality was something that this production did not have. There is comedy: Jack chasing Algie around the drawing room proves particularly amusing. Attempts at audience involvement, though, such as the butler offering around cucumber sandwiches, clash horribly with the fourth-wall approach of the majority of the piece.
Refusing to enjoy the sheer inane fun of the dialogue, Krishna Omkar’s ‘wicked’ Algernon is flat and boringly sincere. His character’s decadent love of life remains absent, and Timmy Pleydell-Bouverie’s charmingly English Jack, and Izzi Drury’s Gwendolen quietly usurped the role of leads.
The garden set is inventive, switching the direction of the audience between acts. Melissa Oppenheim’s naïve Cecily, and the hilarious pairing of Arabella Lawson’s Miss Prism and Henry Thorogood’s Canon Chasuble were a delight to watch.
Repeatedly though, I found myself more interested in watching a nearby squirrel than the cast. It’s funny, but undeniably ‘pedestrian and predictable’.
Nonetheless, the overall experience was enjoyable. Merton Gardens are beautiful, while the piano music and birdsong provide a feast for the senses. You can’t go too far wrong with Wilde. Enjoyable, even if unoriginal.