University of Adelaide Theatre Guild
The Little Theatre
Until 13 Nov 2021

Review by Holden Ward

This production of Oscar Wilde’s “A Woman of No Importance” is an accomplished debut from Director Saphron Giannos. If only the season could be longer!

The live piano music opening from Leah Komad Antic was a nice touch, used throughout the play to subtly enhance the drawing room genre. As a student of the Elder Conservatorium, Leah further added to the authenticity of this competent production by the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild.

Wilde’s play indulges in satirising the British upper class of the nineteenth century whilst an unfolding drama emerges amongst the protagonists.

Rachel Arbuthnot is the female protagonist, exquisitely portrayed by Imogen Dellar-Evans, who skilfully captured all of the emotional angst of the character, inviting the audience to empathise with the pain of her past and the agonising dilemma of her present.

As the male protagonist, Lord George Harford Illingworth, is essentially a narcissist, albeit a socially acceptable one for his time. For young actor Tommy Raets, playing a much older Illingworth would have not been without challenge. However, once warmed up, Raets was quite believable, and carefully balanced Illingworth’s less likeable character traits, with just enough wit and charm to keep the audience engaged in his plight.

Luka Krivokapic delivered convincing performances as Gerald Arbuthnot, particularly evident in the heartfelt and dramatic scenes involving his mother.

Strong performances were also noteworthy from Ellie Schaefer as Mrs Allonby, who displayed excellent voice projection, including for sustained periods when her character addressed her peers in the drawing room, facing away from the audience. Also showcasing excellent vocal control was Michelle Roylance as Lady Caroline, who delivered entertaining performances, effortlessly pitching shrill tones that could shatter glass. In addition, Lelum Rathnayake appeared relaxed and confident in his supporting role as Mr Kelvil.

Whilst not crucial to the plot, other characters such as Sir John and The Archdeacon provided some light relief amongst the building dramatic tensions.

However, the play’s potential to encourage deeper reflection on the outdated and insightless British aristocracy was somewhat constrained by Amy Liew’s characterisation of Hester Worsley, who had a lovely stage presence, but was perhaps in need of some direction to scale down the smiles, and scale up the Americanisms. This would have served to elevate her important speech which questioned the accepted class structure in British society, and would have allowed for more comedic opportunities in cultural cringe.

The split-level stage was well designed and appropriately furnished to accommodate the ensemble cast in drawing room settings as well as a large balcony, with good use of lighting to bring focus to the split levels separately and together. Aside from some furniture re-arrangement and the removal of a wall picture, more could have been done to further reflect the change to Ms Arbuthnot’s home in the Second Act.

The Victorian-era costumes and props, supplied by The Adelaide Repertory Theatre and State Theatre SA were superb.

This is indeed a fine production of “A Woman of No Importance”, it is such a pity that so much work goes into something this good, with such a short run. If you get the opportunity to see it, please do!