When you hear that Evam, one of the most popular theatre groups in India, is staging one of the wittiest plays ever written – Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest – your expectations naturally go a little high.
Does the play live up to its hype? I wouldn’t say a firm yes. I enjoyed the play overall, but for that the credit must go to the script rather than Evam’s treatment of it.
Evam shines in the MTV-style of humour, but with British satire they were visibly out of their comfort zone.
Dialogue delivery appeared to be a problem. Other than the ladies who played Lady Bracknell and Miss Fairfax, the rest of the cast struggled with their lines. The role of Algernon, a key character in the play, is performed by Karthik Kumar, Evam’s star actor. Karthik generally has great stage presence and comic timing, but here he didn’t seem to get into Algernon’s character. He was simply playing himself on stage.
The best performance was easily Lady Bracknell’s, who got into the role with great ease and aplomb. Cecily was an embarrassment to watch, she was that bad. It was as if she was reading out memorized lines, that too in a barely audible voice.
The most curious decision was to introduce dances sequences into the play, something that’s not part of the original script. This may have made sense if the actors had dancing skills to show off (Brief Candle, for example, made good use of their cast’s singing talent), but here the dancing was quite shoddy. Why go out of the way to make your actors dance when they’re not cut out for it?
As with An Idiot For Dinner, I’ve probably liked the play less than most people. The audience reception in the theatre was very positive. There was laughter and clapping throughout at Wilde’s witty lines.
When the play was over and the cast was welcomed on stage, guess who got the loudest applause? The butler!