There have been a few productions of The Importance of Being Earnest at this year’s Fringe, but Slapstick Picnic provide a refreshingly discrete – though certainly not discreet – take on the “trivial comedy for serious people”. The ludicrous production was performing at Assembly George Square’s The Tree House, and while it is no longer at the Fringe, the production continues to tour outdoor venues across the UK until early September.
Directed by Nel Crouch, the company take Oscar Wilde’s 1895 satirical farce to its wildest extreme, orchestrating ridiculous buffoonery without descending into cringeworthy messiness. Some of the play’s more political humour is lost, but it is replaced with delightful mayhem much more fitting for this production.
The play follows aristocratic gentlemen John and Algernon who use their fabricated relatives as an excuse to pardon themselves from social responsibilities. The double lives they create are complicated as the pair develop affection for Gwendolen and Cecily, and the two must maintain their façade to hilarious effect.
If you are not familiar with The Importance of Being Earnest, you will have to pay attention to the story in this chaotic production. Nevertheless, the cast manage to communicate the plot rather well, which is a huge accomplishment for a show predominantly handled by two actors.
Lucy Green plays Algernon Moncrieff and Gwendolen Fairfax, while William Ross-Fawcett plays John Worthing and Cecily Cardew. The two share the role of the uptight lizard that is Lady Bracknell, interpreting the character quite literally as a gorgon.
The pair switch characters mid-scene and sometimes act as their own scene partners, adding new kinds of disorder and dramatic irony to the play. The costume changes are aided by stage manager Charlotte Driessler who pursues humorous revenge after being treated abominably throughout the show.
The one-hundred-minute production can cause fatigue at times and sometimes the silliness can feel a bit repetitive, but at no point does it feel stale. The cast are expert slapstick comedians, and it is a pleasure to watch both Green and Ross-Fawcett be the life of the tea party.
Slapstick Picnic’s The Importance of Being Earnest is not trying to be anything apart from what it is: a load of absurd nonsense. If you are unable to catch this performance, keep an eye out for their sister company The HandleBards’ hit production of Twelfth Night, which visits the Fringe on 19th-20th August.