Review By Regan Baker
After a long and stressful week at work there is no better way to wind down than with a drink or two (or several more) and a light piece of theatre to ease ones’ self into the weekend. In a wild turn of events however, tonight, I am the sober one and the cast of the show are the ones getting Boozy! As they attempt to perform Oscar Wilde’s classic, The Importance of Being Earnest, two members of the cast from Act React downed drink after drink to see just how well they could keep it together while delivering their lines. Every night is a Wilde-ly different performance as the cast flip a proverbial coin and rotate through who is getting cut and who maintains the role of responsibility. In tonight’s Brisbane premiere for the Anywhere Theatre Festival, Jenna Murphy (Playing Cecily) and Ellie Hardisty (Playing Lady Bracknell, among others) drew the short straw and promptly placed those straws in a glass of vodka, lime and soda.
Like any good drinking game there was of course an element of audience involvement and also an opportunity to throw each other under the bus. Before the show, two members of the audience were handed party poppers by Gwendolen and Cecily and instructed to fire them off at any point in time to force their respective character to down their current drink. The two drunken thespians could also (in character and at an appropriate time in the performance) shout out “I’d drink to that,” to force the other to call bottoms up and finish their drink. The rules were simple. The stage laid out. It was time to get Wasted.
The show opened in somewhat traditional fashion with Jack Worthing (played by Simon Chugg) and Algernon Moncrieff (played by Daren King) soberly talking through their love interests in Gwendolen and Cecily respectively. That is, until the boozed-up Lady Bracknell enters and things very quickly took a turn for the chaotic. While the story started to take a dive, the entertainment and laughs rose sky-high as Hardisty struggled to contain her own laughter as she drank her way through the opening act. One drunk performer on stage at a time was funny enough, but the laughs were uncontrollable when Murphy and Hardisty took to the stage together; especially when they were interacting with each other and neither could remember what they were doing.
Elizabeth Best (as Gwendolen) did an outstanding job of trying to keep things together and where necessary, steer the show back on track, but as strong-willed as she appeared she too was not invulnerable from getting the giggles and losing her mark also. Damien Campagnolo had a tough gig of remembering multiple characters lines, but did so with hilarious grace and wasn’t afraid to improvise himself when s*** hit the fan.
Massive credit must be given to Simon Chugg and Daren King for not only playing the lead male roles, but also preventing the girls from falling over (which nearly happened on multiple occasions) and trying to ensure the show kept on relative track. The relationships between the cast were highly engaging and it was blindly obvious that a lot of thought and preparation went into the creation of this drunken classic.
As for Hardisty and Murphy; credit to you girls! The Importance of Being Earnest is not an easy play to remember sober let alone tackling it with four to five glasses of vodka / bubbles (of which two were skulled) and two shots of Alize Bleu in your system. The twists and turns of your drunken take on the lines made for a hilarious night of entertainment and while portions of it made absolutely no sense whatsoever, that was all part of the fun.
Quite conveniently I had been asked to photograph Growl Theatre’s performance of The Importance of Being Earnest just days earlier to support fellow Theatre Travels writer, Gemma Keliher (who plays Gwendolen in that performance), so I had a good understanding of the story front-of-mind. I say ‘conveniently’ as without this prior knowledge there were certainly elements that could be difficult to follow for anyone who had not seen, or at least heard of the story before. Did this detract from the entertainment in any way however? Absolutely not! In speaking with other guests after the performance who had no idea what the original play was actually about, they still managed to find themselves in stitches as the cast (both the sober and the inebriated ones) fumbled their way through the story.
As is the point of the Anywhere Theatre Festival, The Lord Alfred Hotel is not your typical theatre venue, but provided a nice backdrop nonetheless for the unfolding of this story and most importantly, provided a bar for easy access to more alcohol! It has been two years since I’ve enjoyed the pleasures of the Anywhere Theatre Festival and ‘The Importance of Being Wasted’ was certainly a brilliant re-introduction to why I love this festival so much.
Tonight was my first of nine shows for the festival so stay tuned for more reviews to come and be sure to check out all the shows that are on offer at www.anywhere.is.
‘The Importance of Being Wasted’ runs until the 21st of May so be sure to get in quick!