Review: The Pantaloons “Importance of Being Earnest”

Those of you who have been following the blog for a while (and paying attention) will know that last year I was went to see an outdoor theatre production of “Pride and Prejudice” by The Pantaloons theatre company. In fact, I enjoyed myself so much that I actually went back to watch it again.  I promised myself that I would make sure I went to see more of their work when they were next in the area.

I finally got my chance last night when I went to watch “The Importance of Being Earnest”- Pantaloons’ style at the Pomegranate Theatre in Chesterfield. I had no doubt that I would enjoy it as “Earnest” is already one of my favourite plays anyway.  It’s incredibly funny and witty and I really looked forward to seeing how The Pantaloons would make it their own.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me while I attempt to write this review without sounding like a complete and utter fangirl (or fan-taloon, as my companion suggested! – someone get me a t-shirt with that printed on!) It’s going to be hard not to come across as the demented stalker type, but I’ll do my best.

I’m also probably going to be quite vague so as not to give away too many spoilers. The element of surprise definitely added to the comedy and I’d hate to take that away from any future viewers.

I’m going to start with a quick disclaimer.  If you’re a hard core Earnest/Oscar Wilde fan who is incredibly protective of the original source material and would fly into to rage over any missed lines or adlibs, you may wish to steer clear of this production.  They are fearlessly irreverent with the script and not afraid to introduce frivolity, vulgarity and general ridiculousness when the need arises. Alternatively, you could take a chill pill (showing my age), buy a ticket anyway and prepare to have your world rocked by Earnest as you have never seen it before!  The decision is yours.

The production featured three of the cast members that I had previously seen in Pride & Prejudice. Does it sound sad to I say it felt like bumping into old friends?

The role of Jack Worthing was played by Edward Ferrow. The great thing about Ed (I hope you don’t mind me calling you Ed) is that he manages to be a very convincing romantic lead while still providing some brilliant comic moments.

Alex Rivers, who is fast becoming my personal hero and role model (Oops – there’s that fangirl stalker again!), played the roles of Gwendolyn, Lane and Miss Prism.  She previously featured as Lizzie Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, so it was great to see her in some more varied character work. Her Miss Prism was particularly outstanding and definitely got some of the loudest laughs of the evening.

Kelly Griffiths was fabulous again playing a butler, the not-so-little Cecily and of course, the  commanding Lady Bracknell. Some of Lady B’s lines are so well-known that is must be very hard to make them sound original, but Kelly managed beautifully.  (A handbag, anyone??) And I literally have no idea how she managed to get in and out of that fat suit quite so fast – she must have been exhausted.  Oh, and the Cecily/Gwen tennis/boxing match was probably my favourite in the whole show.  I could go on.  I won’t.

I’d never seen Neil Jennings before, but I loved both his performances as Algernon and Dr Chasuble. His portrayals of both characters were so completely different that I wouldn’t have believed they were the same man if I hadn’t read it in the programme first!.  His Algernon is probably my favourite I’ve ever seen. He was flamboyant, snide and utterly charming at the same time. (Sorry – Rupert Everett – you’re sacked!)

The company as a whole was electric.  They took a script which has been done to death and breathed new life into it, filling it with energy and innovation. There were all the typical pantaloons shananigans of breaking the fourth wall, audience participation and general raucous behaviour.

My particular highlights were the original songs, Algie and Jack’s fist bump, a very convincing nose thump and the movie montage section – but that’s all I’m going to reveal. If you want more info you’ll have to find out for yourself.

“The Importance of being Earnest” is still touring around the UK until the middle of May – if you want to find a venue near you go and visit their website.

As usual when the show ended I was left desperately wanting more.  Which is lucky, because I’m going back tonight to see The Complete History of Britain!

Sorry, did someone mention restraining orders…?

Look out for review part two – coming tomorrow….

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