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Corn Exchange - The Kaos Importance of Being Earnest

13th to 15th March 2003.

This was the Newbury Weekly News review.

So deliciously camp and so absolutely Wilde

The Kaos Importance of Being Earnest, at The Corn Exchange, from Thursday, March 13 to Saturday, March 15

The Kaos Importance of being Earnest was certainly not for purists but what a wonderful high-energy inventive production it was. Full of creative theatrical gems and under the steadfast direction of Xavier Leret, it zinged along with dazzling pace and physicality that left me breathless with its originality.

This talented company have taken Wilde's parody of manners and social rituals rooted in the realities of the 1890s and re-invented them as a vibrant surreal snapshot of post-Thatcher, New Labour Britain. It was deliciously camp, fantastically funny, decadent and absolutely Wilde. Sarah Blenkinsop's design was full of surprises, with black and white panels, large opening wardrobes, and pop-up roses in the garden and costumes that were simply 'over the top'.

The plot is a complex mix of mistaken identity and the importance of Jack and Algernon having the name of Earnest. Jack Corcoran was a splendid flamboyant Algernon and Ralf Higgins gave an endearing performance as Mr Worthing.

Jane Hartley's Lady Bracknell was a joy to watch entering with designer shopping bags and snorting lines of cocaine. The play is famous for the its 'handbag scene' so notably played by Dame Edith Evans that it now presents a challenge, but this was played with such energy and spectacular effects that it left the audience gasping. Catherine Skinner was a delightful Cecilie, dressed in a red tutu (who reminded me of Violet Elizabeth from Just William). Her tutor, Miss Prism (Sarah Thorn), a perfect Joyce Grenfell character is sexually repressed but manages to establish a passionate relationship with the Rev. Chasuble (an excellent performance by Jake Oldershaw). The a cappella singing including exerts from Mozart and Handel together with the original hipster soundtrack (Jules Bushell) was superb.

This was a stunning production much enjoyed by the audience, a true tour de force.