When fringe theatre is often associated with new writing, it is pleasant to remind ourselves of the classics from which theatre has evolved. A Woman Of No Importance was written by Oscar Wilde, premiering in 1893, and is a story of the double standards that split women and men whilst largely satirising the upper class society.
The piece is performed in Theatro Technis, a large theatre space (although appearing to create a lot of echo) that enables the ensemble to perform in the large variety of spaces in the room. The room is dressed to have the appearance of a Victorian drawing room, with elegant furniture that stays true to the era. We are also greeted with elegant music and together this sets the tone for the piece nicely.
I really enjoyed the use of language in the piece. Wilde’s use of phrasing and wordplay work very well and allow many opportunities for comedy throughout. Whilst using an older vocabulary, it is still possible for us to understand the characters’ language through the dated elegance. There are some points, however, that I felt the language is thrown away; I really wanted the actors to use every single word and sentence, and to know why their characters were saying these things. Sometimes it feels a little rushed through, and although it is clear that these actors have a lot to learn in this piece alone, I wanted them to savour and relish every word. This would have shown true commitment to the characters, and to the piece.
There are a few things in this production that distract from the era, from the way both men and women move and sit down, to small things like applying too much gold shimmer on the face. It appears that sometimes the cast generally forgot certain details like this, whereas realistically it would be embedded in the veins of these characters to obtain a tight posture as a way of expressing their class. They may seem like small things, but it’s important to portray the characters with as much truth in order to justify the piece.
I very much enjoyed Peter Jerome’s interpretation of Gerald Arbuthnot. His naïvity shown through his wide-eyed interests, but also his sometimes overly traditional views on the rules and roles of women, are very well-executed. His energy is high throughout the entire piece and he charms the audience completely.
The piece is currently being performed by The Acting Gymnasium, a company of professionals who collectively perform many traditional pieces. As an organisation for young actors who are looking to get themselves out there, I think it is a brilliant idea. The cast perform well together and this shows that the company form a tight bond with each other whilst learning and rehearsing. With a few minor tweaks here and there, I really think this performance could be quite stunning, and could encourage other actors to be proactive in their passion.
A Woman of No Importance is playing at the Theatro Technis until 17 October. For more information and tickets, see the Theatre Technis website. Photo: The Acting Gymnasium.