The Importance of Being Earnest – Split Second Productions – Cheltenham Ladies College REVIEW

In Split Second Productions first ever spring tour, a small and carefully selected team have come together to create an eccentric reimagining of Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy, The Importance of being Earnest. They tour around unconventional settings and locations in the South West and I managed to catch up with them at Cheltenham’s Ladies College in Gloucestershire.

In the gorgeous setting of the Hogwarts-esque school, Alex Hooper and Jack Coleby make up the entirety of the cast interchanging between the seven main characters in the play. A chaise lounge, some garden furniture and plenty of cucumber sandwiches and champagne are the only other accompaniments on stage. They need as much space as possible for the larger than life characters they have developed. Intimate staging and an inventive fast paced story makes for an evening enjoyed by all.

The play opens with the two bachelors Jack and Algernon as they set up the confusing love triangle/square/polygon that will soon emerges as the story unfolds. Swapping from character to character the performance begins slow, and builds up pace, climaxing to the two guys frantically swapping hats and therefore characters.

It is clear the two boys Alex and Jack have heavily explored all the characters, stretching and morphing them into ingenious archetypes to entertain the audience. From prancing Cecily to sandwich scoffing Algernon each character was as distinctive and distinguishable from the next. Alex and Jack used hats to differentiate from different characters but they had nailed each character so well they almost weren’t needed.

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The show is daft from the very beginning, and lets you relax into the comedy without tense or awkward moments. It had me grinning and chuckling throughout and had all members of the audience engaged, from young children to older couples.

Split Second are all about putting a new twist on a classic tale, whether that be working in non-traditional theatre spaces or something new and different such as this particular show. Alex and Jack are fresh out of Guildford School of Drama and are turning heads in the industry with their innovative ideas and renditions of classic plays. I hope to see more from this strong duo.

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