The Importance of Being Earnest

Date 6th September 2019
Society Horncastle Theatre Company
Venue The Lion Theatre, Horncastle
Type of Production Play
Director Gail Hinkins


Author: Andrew Key

‘Earnest’ is my favourite play and the last one I appeared in myself, so it's very special to me. I remember my director being really strict about all the cast memorising Oscar Wilde’s lines and then not EVER deviating from them. We didn’t and neither did the cast at Horncastle as they produced a delightful version of this play that is still very funny well over 100 years since it was written.

This was my first visit to the wonderful Lion Theatre, where the Front of House team were very friendly and welcoming. And the seats were comfortable with lots of leg room for folk like me. It was a full house and the audience loved it.

Russell Alder as Algernon pulled off a tour de force, holding the whole production together. His casting was inspired, he was exactly right. It takes real skill to eat cucumber sandwiches and muffins whilst at the same time holding court with the latest rules of social behaviour (as he sees them). There are so many well remembered lines from this character – perhaps my favourite – ‘Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.’ Great acting Russell.

Of course, everyone waits for Lady Bracknell to appear. Penny Holland said that she was going to play the part her way, and she did just that. Her understating of the most famous ‘A handbag’ line was very satisfactory. Its so easy to overplay this part, but Penny did not do that and consequently garnered many laughs from the audience. And she had a whole dead creature on her shoulder, that was perched there, menacingly throughout.

I loved the proposal scene between John (Josh Lincoln) and (Rachel Yates) – both characters played to great effect by these two actors. Josh seemed to move about the stage as if he was balancing a book on his head, but his deportment and clipped accent was very fitting for this part – something that he maintained as the plot twisted and turned to its dramatic conclusion.

Natasha Lowes as John’s ward Cecily also created a lovely performance that never lost its pace.

Tristan Forrester pulled off the seemingly impossible task of playing two different servant roles, one in each part of the play. Although a cameo role, his very funny Merriman (or should I call him ‘Two Soups’) had the audience eating out of his hand as he stoopingly shuffled on and off the stage (straightening up rather quickly as he got off stage, that made it funnier).

Derek le Page was the archetypal vicar – his long experience on the stage evident as he did a lovely job – as did Avril Kelsey as the rather prim Miss Prism – who had something of a twinkle in her eye too – that came across well, whenever the vicar appeared.

I loved the staging of this play – the amazingly massive portraits in the first scene were fabulous and so right. I was also very impressed with the two minute scene change between acts two and three.

The actors successfully negotiated two unwelcome interruptions from a mobile phone going off, without dropping a line – well done. The wooden stage was quite noisy as people were walking about at the start but I soon forgot about it as I got engrossed in the action. Audability was on the whole very good, with only the occasional drop in volume that may have made a few audience members struggle to hear, especially the occasional faster paced dialogue.

Congratulations to director Gail Hinkins and her whole team for a lovely show. I really look forward to visiting again soon, keep up the good work.

Andrew Key

Saturday 7th September 2019