For first time director Saphron Giannos, Oscar Wilde’s play “A Woman of No Importance” in this Student Society Theatre Guild production displays an outcome both notable and commendable. Saphron displays a mature insight into the mores of Victorian society. I hope this is a spring board for her to occupy the director’s chair many more times. I hold the same sentiment for her cast as a whole. For many on stage this is their first or early experience “treading the boards” with a company such as the Theatre Guild. Their combined contribution complements the successful outcome of this production and is surely a learning experience leading to future theatre participation. I hope so.
Now to this production. The set is redolent of a Victorian drawing room circa 1890s with simple yet effective decor. Interlude piano by Leah Komad Antic is easy on the ear and might well have been used a little more or for a little longer. Michelle Roylance as Lady Caroline dominates both stage and conversation in the first instance. She presents a well drawn character and in so doing demonstrates a good “feel” for her place on the stage and nicely modulated dialogue to her audience. She is ably matched by Ellie Schaefer as Mrs Allonby who also has plenty to say and who exhibits a generous touch of the flirtatious vamp whenever Lord Illingworth comes into range. Similarly Veronika Wlodarczyk as Lady Stutfield adds a well placed pithy comment or two. They all admirably represent the atmosphere of the era. Dignified dowager hostess Lady Hunstanton is played to great effect by Chelsea Lancione. Her airs and graces become the mistress of the house. A fine performance.
Tommy Raets is a competent “man of the world” Lord Illingworth with an eye for the ladies which is not always reciprocated. And rightly so! Tommy plays the “cad” well enough but his true nature really becomes apparent in the final scenes with the Arbuthnots, and in particular with spurned lover of 20 years before, Rachel Arbuthnot, mother of his altogether unsuspecting son Gerald to whom he has just offered tempting and tangible employment. In her role as Rachel Arbuthnot Imogen Deller-Evans puts her acting experience on display. She invests her character with thoughtful studied poise throughout. The scene with her son Gerald in which she attempts to dissuade him from any employment or allegiance with Illingworth is a standout in the play. Among a number of fine performances Imogen displays a mature stage presence and evokes just the right degree of sentiment for the audience to digest. As her son Gerald Arbuthnot, Luka Krivokapic grows in performance stature (from boundless enthusiasm to a stance of social justice) as the play proceeds. Amy Liew as Gerald’s soon to be “intended”, American import Hester Worsley, also gains in confidence and consolidates her character as matters progress.
The production is not without its flaws. Young actors tend to look directly at the character with whom they are conversing rather than deliver up and out to the audience. Also some scenes and/or characters were too static at times. I also recall Lady Allonby delivering a substantial piece of dialogue whilst sitting with her back to the audience when there was opportunity to get up, move, reflect and direct what she had to say to us. But, having got that minor criticism off my chest, dialogue was generally audible and well understood by an appreciative audience.
This is an ensemble piece and well interpreted by everybody on stage be they major or minor players. Whenever I see young players performing I am transported back to my undergraduate days. As Oscar says “Youth is the Lord of Life”. And so it is!