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“The Importance of Being Earnest” by W!ld Rice

April 15, 2013

ImportanceOfBeingEarnest1(picture courtesy of WILD RICE Ltd)

Event: Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” presented by W!ld Rice
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Run: 10th Apr – 4th May 2013

Men United

Much has been made of W!ld Rice’s rather bold yet delightful staging of the Oscar Wilde classic “The Importance of Being Earnest” back in March/April 2009, which subsequently garnered the production three awards at the 2010 Life! Theatre Awards – Best Production, Best Supporting Actor (Chua Enlai) and Best Costume Design (Frederick Lee).

The main talking point back then was director Glen Goei’s rather innovative idea of using an all-male cast for the production, which raised quite a few eyebrows at that time.

However, mainly due to the sheer calibre of the assembled cast, the bold gamble paid dividends and the production went on to garner many a favourable review in the press and theatre community.

Four years on, and W!ld Rice has decided to revisit this gem of a production, a popular farcical comedy about two friends attempting to create fictitious alter egos so as to escape social rigidity.

Oscar Wilde was well known for his wit, and this play is full of the incredibly witty lines which he was particularly remembered for.

Fans who missed the ’09 production might be pleased to know that the ’13 production remains relatively unaltered, save for the role of Rev Canon Chasuble, formerly played by Zahim Albakri and now played by Lim Kay Siu.

Also, the renown T’ang Quartet, which provided exquisite musical accompaniment back in ’09, is now replaced by The Ensemble Dimension Players, which manages to hold its own in its renditions of familiar favourites such as Bach’s “Air on the G String” as well as the Prelude from his Cello Suite No. 1 (a solo piece played valiantly by the cellist in between Acts 2 and 3).

All the familiar touches are there from the original production, such as the opening sequence where the actors casually saunter about in jeans and crisp white shirts – some going out amongst the audience offering them cucumber sandwiches on a tin tray, others remaining onstage admiring the string quartet rendering a mixture of Baroque and Classical pieces before the play actually begins in earnest.

It seems W!ld Rice has taken great pains to give the entire evening a distinctively Victorian feel, what with sophisticated little touches such as the live string quartet and the cucumber sandwiches, and this definitely added to the experience and enjoyment of the play.

The star-studded cast, as you would expect, once again delivers the goods impeccably and one would be hard-pressed to pick out any particular actor who stood out from the rest.

Ivan Heng, in his resplendent red and black suits, is in his element once again as the formidable Lady Bracknell, and commands the stage like few others can. (His dramatic half-pirouette in itself towards the end of Act 1 was something to behold.)

Daniel York, as John Worthing, is always highly engaging and seems to play the conflicted sympathetic characters very well.

The two young “female” roles of Gwendolyn Fairfax and Cecily Cardew are once again taken on ably by the ever-exuberant Chua Enlai and Gavin Yap respectively, although it seems to me that their interpretations of the two young ladies this time round were more consciously masculine and with deeper vocal projections than the last time round, although I can’t be entirely certain of this.

And while the adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” certainly seems to come into play in this instance, it is the high similarity of this production to the original one that might perhaps slightly disappoint those who are looking to be surprised or thrilled by the introduction of possible new elements into this production.

Nonetheless, comparisons aside, as a stand-alone production, W!ld Rice’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” remains a largely faultless and thoroughly enjoyable romp through one Wilde’s most popular works, replete with dazzling outfits and sophisticated ensemble music harkening back to the Victorian era.

And given the company’s seemingly natural affinity and effortless flair in the interpretation of his works, you wonder if they might soon consider naming themselves W!lde Rice instead.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Juliana Lim permalink
    April 15, 2013 10:45 am

    Saw it n agree with you. Admire your patience in capturing all the details.

    Let’s catch up sometime even tho our ‘glue’ Dr KK Seet is in UK.

    Best – Juliana

    • Jeremy permalink*
      April 15, 2013 1:11 pm

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Juliana. Yes, let’s catch up soon!

  2. April 16, 2013 12:54 am

    “although it seems to me that their interpretations of the two young ladies this time round were more consciously masculine and with deeper vocal projections than the last time round, although I can’t be entirely certain of this.” Very well observed. Yes, this was a conscious decision.

    Great review. Thanks so much.

    • Jeremy permalink*
      April 16, 2013 9:25 am

      Thanks for your comment, Daniel!

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