Ballyshannon Drama Group present ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by Oscar Wilde

Setting

Act 1 – Algernon Moncrieff’s flat in Half-Moon Street.
Act 2 – The Garden at the Manor House, Woolton.
Act 3 – The Vestibule at the Manor House, Woolton.

Synopsis

Oscar Wilde’s wildly entertaining comedy sparkles with dazzling wordplay and hilariously unlikely situations. This “trivial comedy for serious people” features two carefree bachelors, Jack and Algernon, each with a carefully hidden double life. But when Algernon discovers that Jack has been posing as a man named Ernest to escape to the city, he promptly travels to Jack’s country estate to pose as the fictional figure himself! Silliness ensues with whimsical ingénues, jealous fiancées, indomitable dowagers, and the most famous handbag in theatre history.

Cast

Lane Kevin Lilly
Algernon Moncrieff Sean Donegan
Jack Worthing Terence McEneaney
Lady Bracknell Rachel O’Connor
Gwendolen Fairfax Louise Larkin
Miss Prism Trish Keane
Cecily Cardew Sinead Luke
Dr. Chasuble Tony Liston
Merriman Mark Kirby

Crew

Director Conor Beattie
Stage Manager Carl Duggan
Lighting Mark Fearon
Christopher Dykes
Sound Conor Beattie
Set Design Trish Keane
Set Construction Paul McGonigle
John Travers
Sean O’Connor
Mark Kirby
Costumes Rachel O’Connor
Stage Crew Aidan McGuinness
Linda Gallagher
Mark Langan
Maureen Travers
Sean Mc Loon
Michael Travers
Keith Robinson
Mary Duggan
Moya Ferguson

About The Group

Ballyshannon Drama Society have hosted their Annual Drama Festival since 1952 and regularly competes on the festival circuit. They won the All Ireland One Act in 1958 with ‘Spreading the News’ and in 2000 with ‘The Extraordinary Revelations of Orca the Goldfish’. In 1961 they won the All Ireland in Athlone with ‘Old Road’ and in 2011 took the All Ireland Confined with ‘Steel Magnolias’. In 2014 they qualified for the Open Finals in Athlone with ‘The Gingerbread Lady’, 2015 with ‘God of Carnage’ and 2016 with Harold Pinter’s ‘Old Times’. Their recent productions include ‘Wake in the West’, ‘Memory of Water’, ‘Snake in the Grass’, ‘Mixed Doubles’, ‘Our Town’, Tom Stoppard’s ‘The Real Thing’, ‘A Funny Kind of Day’ and ‘Play On’. The Group were 2017 runners up in Th One Act Finals with Shelagh Stephenson’s ‘Five Kinds of Silence’. We hosted the All Ireland One Act Finals in 1996 and 2014 and are excited to host the 2020 Confined 3 Act Finals.

Summary of Adjudicator’s Comments

All-Ireland Drama Festival Adjudicator Imelda McDonagh spoke of the “flamboyant wit” of the play’s author Oscar Wilde, and how he rejected the strictures of the Victorian era in favour of the “principles of aestheticism”. He was an unconventional figure who gained notoriety, particularly due to his imprisonment. Wilde died in poverty at the age of just 46 but in time he came to be regarded as one of the major writers of the 19th century.
This play is a “comedy of manners” which poked fun at the behaviour of the upper classes, with the “dangerous delights of double identity” providing ample opportunity for amusement. Such a comedy requires a “lightness of spirit” to allow for the “effervescent wit” of Wilde’s writing to shine through. The audience need to discover the comedy for themselves, rather than it being forced upon them, and the adjudicator said this is a challenge that requires “deft handling”.
The set design (overseen by Trish Keane, with Carl Duggan filling the role of Stage Manager) was hailed as “sumptuous and elegant”. Ms McDonagh praised the “lovely period furniture”, such as the chaise longue, saying “lavish attention” was paid to sourcing props and furniture. The design of the set allowed for “free movement” and “great entrance points”. Act 2 featured the big reveal of a “gorgeous garden” being unveiled.
However, some elements of the set design were questioned such as whether the double doors could have been more solid but, overall, the stage management was lauded. The “army of servants and gardeners” who rearranged the set in the transition from Act 2 to Act 3 was positively highlighted as “a drama in itself”.
In relation to costumes (overseen by Rachel O’Connor), the rich fabrics and colour palette was complimented. She especially likedthe green jacket of Algernon Moncrieff in the opening scene and the head attire of Lady Bracknell.
Turning to the work of the Director (Conor Beattie), Ms McDonagh said he “captured the essence” of Wilde’s work very well, and the “comic foibles” of the main protagonists. The adjudicator had minor quibbles over accents slipping at times and contended that some stage entrances of major characters could have been more effective.
Moments of comedy flowed throughout, and the scenes involving Lady Bracknell (an example was interrogation of Jack in Act 1) showed that Wilde’s comic writing had “stood the test of time”. Yet the adjudicator did feel that more variety in “rhythm and pace” was needed on occasion.
Moving to the acting performances, Jack Worthing (Terence McEneaney) “epitomised” his fake name of Earnest. He was suitably “straitlaced” and though at times the adjudicator felt “more élan” was needed in his manner, he grew in assurance to win the hand of Gwendolen.
Algernon Moncrieff (Sean Donegan) was “debonair, relaxed and flamboyant”. He was the Oscar Wilde-type character in the play, as was captured by this actor who had the “body language of the dandy”. He showed good “vocal energy” and delivered his one-liners with style.
Lady Bracknell (Rachel O’Connor) was “commanding and controlling” and used to getting her own way. She dispensed “caustic put-downs” with “great aplomb” and this actress showed “great vocal variety”, the adjudicator noted.
Gwendolen Fairfax (Louise Larkin) had “definite opinions” (a sign of the influence of her mother, Lady Bracknell), whilst Cecily Cardew (Sinead Luke) was “bright and vivacious” and “very expressive”, with strong vocals.
Dr Chasuble (Tony Liston) portrayed a “serious clergyman” who would relish giving long sermons if given the opportunity, though the adjudicator felt greater projection in vocal delivery was occasionally needed. Miss Prism (Trish Keane) was praised for the “subtle” way she delivered her comic lines. Lane (Kevin Lilly) was “proper” and “lugubrious” in his role as a manservant, while Merriman (Mark Kirby) came across as “loyal and long-suffering” in carrying out similar duties.
Overall, the adjudicator felt the “rich and sumptuous setting” provided an “appropriate background”, allowing the characters to “spring to life” and giving the audience “a sparkling evening of humour and wit”.