Review: The Importance of Being Earnest, Brockley Jack

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing”

In some ways, the notion of mounting a production of Oscar Wilde’s stalwart comedy The Importance of Being Earnest is a sound one – its effervescent wit remaining evergreen even 120 years after it was written. But equally, the weight of such familiarity – for it is a play that gets consistently put on a lot – means that audiences arrive with certain levels of expectation that can undermine anyone not completely secure in their work.

It’s an issue exacerbated that the fact that there’s not a huge amount that one can do, or that get done, to productions of Wilde’s work – rooted as they are in that specific turn-of-the-century English milieu – to provide the levels of excitement that make them stand out. To wit – its last excursions in the West End relied on a soon-forgotten metatheatrical twist and the stunt casting of David Suchet as Lady Bracknell and neither really succeeded.  Continue reading “Review: The Importance of Being Earnest, Brockley Jack”

Review: Wet House, Soho Theatre

“Do you ever question your decision to pursue a career in the care industry?”

Now this, this is the state of the nation. A country in denial about its alcohol habits, a caring profession stretched to breaking point and beyond, a society ill-equipped to deal with the problems that arise from both – Paddy Campbell’s Wet House forces a brutally uncompromising look at what we too often turn our heads away from. And though it is a first play based on his own experiences working in a wet house – a residential facility for the chronically alcoholic and homeless where they can drink however much they want – its dramatic construction, mordant humour and stunning character work clearly mark Campbell as one to watch as Max Roberts’ production so skilfully shows.

He plunges wet-behind-the-ears new graduate Andy into the murky waters of Crabtree House, such a hostel somewhere in the North East, with just the soggy good intentions of Helen and the eviscerating bone-dry wit of Mike to help keep him afloat. As Andy tries to become accustomed to the working practices of caring for people who, on the face of it, can’t or won’t be helped, the appalling truth of how much this work demands bobs into view and the coping mechanisms necessary, shocking as they may seem, perhaps that little bit more justified. It’s a testament to the veracity of the writing that this equivocation feels utterly, completely earned. Continue reading “Review: Wet House, Soho Theatre”