Produced by Split Second productions and directed by Jaq Bessell and Bryan Hodgson.

A well-to-do and quintessentially British play, written by Oscar Wilde and performed by a cast of two young gentlemen, you can expect a performance like no other.

The impressive arrival at Salisbury’s Medieval Hall in the Cathedral Close, was not the usual venue for a night at the theatre, but in this case, it could not have been a more perfect setting for a Wilde play to be brought to life. Old beams and typically beautiful English surroundings added to the drama and feeling of being in another era. The stage was set in the living quarters of a town house, with glamorous furniture, a chaise lounge, table laid with champagne and whisky decanters, and chairs, and a delicious selection of cakes, and the most important prop – the dividing screen (which I’m sure the ever-changing characters could not do without!) – a very formal setting, to say the least.

With the cast of just two playing multiple characters, actors Alex Hopper and Jack Coleby excelled in all their roles; with voice changes and quick (and very hilarious) costume changes behind the screen, kept the audience well-gripped and excited to see who would be appearing next. The clever costume changes meant the audience could immediately associate the outfit with the correct character, adding to the comedy factor.

A story of class, deception, romance, and pretending to be someone you are not, this stage romp is often referred to as ‘trivial comedy for serious people’. The story of John Worthing, also known as ‘Ernest’ Worthing in the town, and ‘Jack’ when he’s gallivanting in the countryside, is based on his love of Gwendolen Fairfax (who lives in town). After ‘Jack’ visits Cecily in the country, ‘Jack’ wants to fall in love with a lady that loves him for himself and not his wealthy and fictional title ‘Ernest’. So he pretends to be someone he is not…again. Consequently he has told too many lies, using each name to escape from his duties and misbehave. Algernon (the second main character) teases Ernest and discovers his secret of pretending to be two different characters, and decides to carry out the same deceit. He calls himself ‘Ernest’ to impress his lover Cecily, which all becomes very confusing, chaotic – but fun!

The story has many twists and turns throughout, proposals, revelations, misunderstandings: But, then, a final secret is revealed about Mr John Worthing’s past that links him more closely with Algernon than we first thought. With a mixture of characters caught up in the pretence; an eccentric doctor, a ditsy Miss Letitia Prism, and snobbery at its best with Lady Augusta Bracknel, this play is a treat to watch. Hats off to the production team, directors and everyone involved in the play, which ended with huge and well-deserved audience appraisal.

For details of other productions visit: www.splitsecondproductions.com

Review by Lucy Spittle 

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