The Darmstadt Echo (translated)

I attended Thursday’s sold out performance of The Importance of Being Earnest at the Hoffart Theater. Note: all Darmstadt performances are sold out.  Anyone wishing to see the production should contact the Amelia Earhart Theatre in Wiesbaden, Earnest’s next stop. The Frankfurt English Speaking Theatre and the ESOC Theatre Group are presenting Wilde’s most well-known comedy as a co-production performed in English. One can’t help smiling to oneself over all the moments in which Wilde holds the mirror up to the English society of the Victorian Age. For the German members of the audience, these moments seem to flawlessly confirm timeless clichés, for example when the butler Lane’s first action on stage is to ever-so-slightly adjust the silver tea service in an almost affectionate manner. From the play’s first moments we know we are in for guaranteed laughs.

A real stunner is the performance of Bobbie Lording-Pfanner as Lady Augusta Bracknell. A British Grand Dame, she radiates a wonderfully accentuated aristocratic arrogance. When talking she lifts her head upwards demanding rapt attention and follows her  own words narcissistically. In that moment, every single muscle in her face seems to be active: her lips smugly curve, her eyebrows are pulled upwards. Even Joan Collins as Dallas-minx Alexis couldn’t be any more arrogant and cutting.

Gorgeously directed by Mark Mineart, the cast excels in portraying the often satirically trenchant behaviour and characteristic patterns of English society on the threshold of the 20th century.  The players do their jobs well and it is clear that under Mineart’s hand the entire ensemble relishes the characters’ frivolous conversations and grinning like the Cheshire cat for tea. And when everyone’s true colours are shown, it is vital, and above all, English, to keep countenance and drink that tea – even though it has been ‘filled with lumps of sugar.’