Venture Theatre Company
Trinity Uniting Hall
Until 22 Jul 2017

Review by Anthony Vawser

This could be one of the most reliable and evergreen comedies known to man, which is not to suggest that just any old bunch of well-meaning wannabes can successfully stage it. Fortunately, Venture Theatre Company are a talented team, well up to the task.

Director Lucy Marshallsay has made sure that the pace of the show moves along without speeding, and she allows the show to breathe when necessary, but without ever dragging.

The heart of the piece depends upon the chemistry and interplay between the two ‘Ernests’, and our pair of performers largely deliver the goods. Mitchell Lowe’s Algernon is likeably exuberant and caddishly charming (though he suffered a number of noticeable line slips), while Luke Wagner’s John/Jack is a nicely contrasting buttoned-up conservative.

Steph Butterfield is a well-spoken and likeable Gwendolyn; like many performers in this cast, she is keenly attuned to the requirements of this text. Suzanne Dyer carries the iconic role of Lady Bracknell very well, and Kristy Mundy’s Miss Prism is spot-on, simply sublime.

Jessica Ramsay makes Cecily believably childlike and open-hearted, Roger Crowder does well as the charmingly bashful Dr Chasuble, while Matthew Maidment’s servant characterisation is effectively expressive, even idiosyncratic at times; his hapless, repetitive devotion to the masters of the house grows increasingly amusing.

Set design (by the director) is rather basic but doesn’t detract, or distract, from Oscar Wilde’s wonderful words, while the costuming (courtesy of Leanne Albers) is convincing for the most part. The otherwise simple and functional lighting design curiously illuminates performers closest to side-stage with an inexplicable sickly yellow glow, making the unfortunates who get caught in it appear to be auditioning for “The Importance of Having Jaundice”.

The hearty laughs that came forth from the audience, particularly in Act 2, are the mark of a cast and director with a firm grip on timing and tone, and are the deserved reward for a company that can feel justly proud of what they have accomplished here.

Luke Wagner is a reviewer for Adelaide Theatre Guide.