A Woman of no Importance | Reviewed
Star Rating: 3/5
Title: A Woman of No Importance
Venue: The Gate
Writer: Oscar Wilde
Director: Patrick Mason
Cast: Cathy Belton, Stephen Brennan, Ingrid Craigie, Deirdre Donnelly, Michael James Ford, Aoibhin Garrihy, Tom Hickey, Des Keogh, James Murphy, Marion O’Dwyer, Aoibheann O’Hara.
A Woman of No Importance is Wilde doing what he does best - gatherings of 19th Century high society delivering egocentric quips to beat the band with an omnipresent underlying commentary on said society's morals and ethics. Dappled late summer sunshine casts a hazy light over the set, an immaculately kept veranda on which the members of this party accumulate to engage in frivolous commentary on themselves and each other, determined to outwit one another while maintaining an air of boredom at all times.
Breaking the mould of Wilde's usual characters is Miss Hester Worsley, a puritanical American visitor, whose presence disconcerts the rest of the country house's residents, a fact that is made clear to her by Lady Caroline Pontefract's steady withering appraisal of this interloper. Wilde casts Hester, played with the perfect balance of opinion and purity by Aoibhin Garrihy, as the voice of reason and morality, a role which is highlighted by her virginal costumes, her variety of white gowns gleaming through the grey palette chosen by designer Peter O'Brien for the rest of the characters. While the entire host of characters, caught up as they are in matters of high society, scream questionable morality, the one who struggles to conceal a true badge of dishonour is the woman of no importance of the title, Mrs Arbuthnot. Played by Gate stalwart Ingrid Craigie, Mrs Arbuthnot has managed thus far to cast a dim light on the details of her son Gerald's paternity, that is until his father, Lord Illingworth, unknowingly offers him a job as his secretary. Less than pleased with this spanner in the works of an otherwise blissful domesticity with her beloved son and his new love interest Miss Worsley, Mrs Arbuthnot determines to put an end to Lord Illingworth-s plans for his abandoned son.
Wilde's narrative, told in his signature manner of elegantly constructed and quick paced dialogue ought to make for an engaging piece of theatre and yet there are one or two elements amiss in this production which detracts from the impact. While some of the actors are admittedly fantastic, both in their individual characterisations and sharp shooting interactions with each other - Brennan, Donnelly, O'Dwyer and Keogh are all as captivating as ever - there is a general issue with pacing that slows the whole performance down. In addition to this there are some members of the cast who miss the point entirely of Wilde’s characters - Aoibheann O'Hara and Cathy Belton take Wilde's superficiality to an unnecessary level of caricature and before long begin to grate on the nerves. Although in need of an injection of energy to shave a few minutes from the playing time, there are moments of real truth in this play which are its saving grace, moments in which Wilde's belief in the value of love and respect shines through and overrides in spades the values held dear by the high society these characters find themselves in - an honourable conclusion to come to, even if it takes a little time to get there.
You can catch this at The Gate until September 22nd.
Review by: Lauren O'Toole
Story by EI Team | 09:00 | Wednesday 25th July 2012 | Theatre
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