27th November 2015
Writing: Niall Jones (Year 13)
Editing: Thomas Franks (Year 11)
On the 14th September, members of the cast and crew of the senior play, which had then recently been announced as The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde’s classic social comedy, gathered in the studio for a read-through. As the evening progressed the hilarity of the plot unfolded and we were left with the daunting task of bringing the play to life in little over two months.
This task was made all the more challenging, though much more rewarding, through the fact that the whole production was entirely student-led – unprecedented for comedy at Challoner's. Under the able direction of Thomas Kershaw-Green and Louis Williams, a unique vision emerged, both reflecting and developing Wilde’s own comic genius.
The Importance of Being Earnest is perhaps the best-known late-Victorian play and is famous for its verbal wit and ridiculous cast of characters. However, as well as being extremely funny, it also offers a blistering social critic of fin-de-siècle high society, telling the story of how Algernon, played by Rohan Montgomery, a self-confessed ‘Bunburyist’, and Jack, played by Edward Robertson, enjoy double lives in order to escape the rigours of being a gentleman, but soon find their love lives becoming horribly entangled.
No play will ever go entirely to plan and The Importance of Being Earnest had its fair share of flying muffins and collapsing chairs, but the stellar cast powered through these problems with a professionalism that belies their age. In particular the awkward, yet passionate, romance between Doctor Chasuble (Nathan Leach) and Miss Prism (Charlie Spring) was hilariously imagined, while Jemima Lomax excelled as the icily authoritative Lady Bracknell. Similarly, the simmering tensions between the ruthlessly romantic Cecily and the ambitious and sensational Gwendolen were perfectly expressed by Aoife McGrath and Lauren Gomez-Cullen.
In a small cast there are no minor characters, with man-servant Lane’s disinterested deference being perfectly expressed by Sam Keogh, while as Merriman (Jack’s butler) my role depended largely on comic timing, a reminder that the play’s humour does not just rest on clever jokes.
For a play that is almost as famous for its props as its plot, the tech team were an essential part of the performance. Led by producer Alex Rainy Brown, technical supervisor Will Hickling and stage manager Finlay Carroll, they not only sourced and looked after props, but also built the set, designed by Sean Tadman, and were in charge of sound and lighting.
For many of the cast and crew (including myself) this was our last play here at DCGS, a fact that elicited an emotional response, but I am sure that the next generation of Challoner’s actors and techies will be up to the challenge of putting on a brilliant senior play next year.