I have already published my reading and entertainment goals for 2018, in which I mentioned that I aim to watch 20 plays this year. And what a better way to start the year than with an Oscar Wilde play.
A Woman of No Importance
Filmed live at the Vaudeville Theatre, London on 28 November 2017.
Cast: Eve Best, Anne Reid, Eleanor Bron, Crystal Clarke, Emma Fielding, Dominic Rowan, Lister Smith, William Gaunt
Synopsis: Olivier award-winner Eve Best (A Moon for the Misbegotten and Hedda Gabler) and BAFTA-nominated actress Anne Reid (Last Tango in Halifax) star in this new classically staged production of Oscar Wilde’s comedy directed by Dominic Dromgoole, former Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe. The first play from the Classic Spring Theatre Company’s Oscar Wilde Season, A Woman of No Importance will be captured live for cinemas from the Vaudeville Theatre in London’s West End. An earnest young American woman, a louche English lord, and an innocent young chap join a house party of fin de siècle fools and grotesques. Nearby a woman lives, cradling a long-buried secret. First performed in 1893, Oscar Wilde’s marriage of glittering wit and Ibsenite drama satirised the socially conservative world of the Victorian upper-class, creating a vivid new theatrical voice which still resonates today. ‘One can survive everything nowadays, except death, and live down anything except a good reputation.’ Oscar Wilde
I had not read this play before watching it, so I went into it rather blind. Judging by the summary, I expected it to be along the lines of “Importance of Being Earnest” - the play that I watched a couple of years ago and absolutely adored. However, “A Woman of No Importance” didn’t have the exact same effect on me.
The play is funny and brilliant in its own way - don’t get me wrong, however, in my opinion, it too much focuses on the society’s perception of propriety and prudishness. Obviously, that was the point as the social satire is the main theme of the play, but for me, it was just a bit too predictable.
The plot of the play didn’t go into the direction I thought it would. For some unknown reason, I was rooting for some side characters to be more prominent, e.g. Mrs Allonby whose flirtatious conversations with Lord Illingworth were fabulous. I would have loved to watch a whole play of them just flirting and insulting each other.
Mrs Rachel Arbuthnot, one of the key characters in this play, is portrayed by Eve Best who did a great job. However, the actress herself reminded me strongly of someone I know at work and I found it very distracting to the point that I couldn’t focus on her character. It has never happened to me before.
I was happy with the ending, even though I sort of wish the play was more satirical and fun. It is called be feminist in nature as it deals with lots of societal perceptions of women’s role in the world.
I think Mrs Allonby was my favourite as she was the only female character who constantly rebelled against the limitations put on her gender. She is witty and silver-tongued and I enjoyed her character way more than others.
There were several songs in the play, which took me by surprise, as they were weaved in as performances by the Lady Hunstanton, the host of the party. It was nicely done, in my opinion, and the songs were performed by the actress herself with the household staff and Lady Stutfield playing musical instruments.
I found the play lovely, but nothing beyond that and a couple of rather stellar lines.
Rating: 3 stars