The recent Senior Play production of The Importance of Being Earnest provided great pleasure for all its audiences over three nights in the Big Schoolroom. One of the most purely pleasurable of comedies, Earnest has had regular productions over the years here; this latest one was directed with thoughtfulness and close attention to detail by Mr Tristan Clarke and Mr Ronan Swift. It is not an easy play to put on for pupils: its wordiness can be hard-going in clumsy hands. At its best, though, the dialogue fizzes from witticism to witticism, and warms the audience along the way with its easily-worn brilliance.
That brilliance was captured well by at the start of the evening by John Clarke and Harvey McCone, as Algernon Moncrieff and Jack Worthing respectively. Both were at ease on the stage; both made the audience feel at ease. Jack's part spans most of the play, and Harvey's acting was pleasingly light of foot. Perhaps the biggest reach for anyone on this cast of twenty-first century teenagers was for Darcy Maule, playing the domineering Lady Bracknell. She did very well, with a good sense of comic timing, and, impressively, she managed that line (the handbag one) without either aping her famous predecessors or pushing unnaturally for an original angle. Melissa Halpenny also did well in her first role on the Columban stage as Lady Bracknell's daughter, Gwendolen.
Best of all in this production was Phoebe Coulter as Cecily. Appearing for the first time on the Columban stage in a major role, she played the part with a beautiful lightness of touch, micro-expressions flitting over her face vividly, with a perfect sense of comic timing (nice use of the watering can). The latter part of the play was also adorned with a different kind of comedy, in Samuel Clarke's doddery Canon Chasuble, chasing after Louvisa Karlsson-Smythe's Miss Prism with nervous eagerness.
The fine cast was completed by butlers Oisin Large and Nikolaus Eggers, who drew a round of applause for the switch of sets (a pulled back curtain on a wire).
A demanding audience, few of whom knew the play beforehand, were sent happily out of the Big Schoolroom by the pleasing ending, after a couple of hours' beautifully-achieved drama.
[At the top of this post, interviews with Mr Swift and the cast put together by Dr Bannister. Here, see excellent photos of the production taken by Liz Lawrence].