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THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST

ECCLESALL PARISH HALL

Ecclesall Theatre Company is marking 75 years by mounting a season of classic revivals.

First up, The Importance Of Being Ernest. To ring the changes, the company is staging the rarely-performed four act version of Wilde’s play. Full marks for enterprise, but the extra scene just adds to the running time, not the action.

Still, overall, it is very finely directed by Jonathan Vinson, and apart from some first-night jitters, the cast handle the sparkling dialogue pretty well. Dan Adamson is suitably droll as the wise-cracking playboy Algernon Montcrieff, and Jonathan Vinson is spot-on as Algy’s pal, Jack Worthing (that’s the one abandoned as a baby in that handbag).

There’s delightful playing from Laura Alston (Gwendolen Farifax) and Natalie Clark (Cecily Cardew) and Judith Moore is a splendid, sonorous Lady Bracknell. All in all, an enoyable take on this lightweight but well-crafted comedy of manners.

Marion Haywood

Inherit the Wind

University Drama Studio

This play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee is based on a famous trial from 1925 in which a teacher was accused of violating the state law of Tennessee by teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. It was written at the time of the McCarthy trials, and the authors were clearly on the side of intellectual freedom. Alex Monks, the director of this production by Sheffield University Theatre Company, claims that it’s a play about ideas. But it’s a one-sided, if entertaining debate; religious fundamentalism is lampooned, and the openness of scientific discourse lauded. The true dramatic interest lies in the conflict between the characters. Dominic Corfield, as Matthew Harrison Brady, the lawyer for the prosecution, and Richard Agar, as Henry Drummond, the lawyer for the defence, manage to suggest a psychological complexity that helps to flesh out the arguments. Nathan Spencer, as Bert Cates, the teacher at the centre of the trial, is both chastened and anguished by his predicament.

Alan Payne