‘Importance’ by Tommy Robinson, 19th July 2017 Smokin’ Billy’s.
Review by Mike Facherty
Star Rating 4 stars
OK, let’s get the business of stars out of the way right now. ‘Importance’ earns four stars easily and verges on five. That’s my micro-review of an excellent play and a jolly good performance. It’s also my belief that Oscar Wilde himself would have approved of this play.
The blending of Oscar Wilde’s ‘Importance of Being Earnest’, some of his letters to Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas and a letter on children’s incarceration with the transcript from his trial for ‘gross indecency with men”’could easily have misfired. But Tommy Robinson’s new play is an accomplished tour-de-force. The play shows Oscar Wilde (Luke Dawson) on trial, trying to convince everyone of the importance of being ‘honest to yourself’ and telling your truth. Later, as Jack Worthing, he declares, ‘It is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth’.
This was very much a real Fringe production. It featured minimal scenery and props, actors doubled up on roles, the play didn’t start bang on time and the venue was uncomfortably warm. However, the seating was comfortable, there was a bar, drinks were allowed in the performance area and we were not crammed in. The quality of the writing, direction and acting raised the play to the top end of fringe shows.
Outclass is a company of students from the John Madejski Academy BTEC Performing Arts who have a long history of performing at the Reading Fringe. They provided a strong ensemble cast. Even so, some of the members stood out.
Naturally, the combined roles of Oscar Wilde and Jack Worthing meant that Luke Dawson was one of them. He shone in his dual role and interacted well with the audience.
Sophie Darwood gave a sparkling performance as Cecily Cardew. She clearly got her character and it was great to hear the audience laughing at her comic interchanges with Algernon. The other outstanding actor, for me, was Molly Medhurst who managed to control the dialogue between Lady Bracknell and Miss Prism without mishap whilst playing both parts. It’s surprising how switching hats supports the change in character.
Talking about teacher Tommy Robinson and Outclass, Luke said ‘… none of it would’ve been possible without him and the work he puts in to us and the group as a whole are amazing to work with.’
Last year, the company won ‘Pick of the Fringe’. Their successors have performed well enough to suggest that this could happen again. I would recommend going to see ‘Importance’ if you get the chance, but unfortunately Tommy Robinson doesn’t think it likely to be performed again locally.
‘Importance’ was written, produced and directed by Tommy Robinson
Luke Dixon – Oscar Wilde, John Worthing
Hamza Purweez – Algernon Moncrieff, barrister
Molly Medhurst – Lady Bracknell, Miss Prism, Judge
Ice-Nanya Khamsriya – Parker
Lauren Acolaose – Gwendolyn Fairfax
Sophie Darwood – Cecily Cardew
J’zsiah Dineen – Dr Chasubel