Review: A Woman of No Importance
Armagh director Gavin McAlinden gives Oscar Wilde’s classic play a traditional treatment, which is quite a contrast to his modern interpretation of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ which his production company ‘The Acting Gymnasium’ is currently producing.
I asked him afterwards about the challenge of directing two plays in the same timeframe and he replied, “It’s very tiring but invigorating. It’s great to discover these amazing plays with such wonderful actors.”
One actor on double duty is Peter Jerome who skilfully plays Romeo in Shakespeare’s play and Lord Illingworth’s illegitimate son in ‘A Woman of No Importance.’ Both roles give such scope due to the rich language and dept of character.
Like so many of Wilde’s plays, he explores the class system with insight and flair, but this particular play focuses on the lack of equality between men and women. Throughout many brilliantly written conversations, we feel the characters’ desperation to maintain or attain status.
In ‘A Woman of No Importance,’ Lord Illingworth offers his illegitimate son a job, but neither is aware of their connection, until the boy’s mother visits. This conflict drives the play, while the set design composed of hanging drapes, a couch, two chairs and a table gives the actors ample freedom to express themselves.
The costumes evoke the period, especially the women’s dresses, while the American woman ‘Hester Worsley’ has a distinctive white prairie dress. Her pure nature represents opportunity and equal rights, which is a stark contrast to the strict English class structure.
As expected and delivered in every Wilde play, there’s delightful humour. In a scene between Sir John and Lady Caroline, she attempts to chase after him but he hides behind the drapes.
This is such an accurate metaphor to describe their incompatibility and the romantic struggles of many other characters. This adaptation of Wilde’s play shows the relevance of this classic work in today’s age and its entertainment value is strong as ever.