Wilde production had plenty of challenges

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Photo: by Julien Labrosse

Top Row: Emily Bernatchez, Charles-Auguste Lehoux, Philippe Girouard, Emile Beauchemin, Alex-Carter Labbé, Lower Row: Audray-Rose Dubé, David Blais, William McCollough, Rosemarie Sabor

The house was overflowing on Thursday April 9th, when the Champlain-St. Lawrence Theatre Company presented, for the third consecutive night, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.

It was a tall order, but the St. Lawrence students rose to the occasion with energy and panache.

In this pithy comedy, first produced in 1895, two young men, Jack Worthing (Emile Beauchemin) and Algernon Moncrieff (Philippe Girouard), try to conquer the hearts and win the hands of two young women, Gwendolen Fairfax (Rosemarie Sabor), Algernon's pretty cousin, and Cecily Cardew (Alex Carter-Labbé), Jack's debutante ward.

Before the lovers can be united, however, the gentlemen's double life has to be revealed, Gwendolen's mother, Lady Bracknell (William McCollough), persuaded, and the mystery of Jack's birth uncovered.

After numerous mistaken identities and reversals of events, and some involvement from a novel-writing governess, Miss Prism (David Blais), an enamoured clergyman, the reverend Chasuble (Charles-Auguste Lehoux), and two impassive butlers, Lane and Merriman (Emily Bernatchez), all's well that ends well.

The production afforded plenty of challenges for cast and crew.

A change of director in the early stages gave student Audray-Rose Dubé her first opportunity in directing.

Since the directors of previous plays put on by the theatre company were always either a teacher experienced in theatre or a professional actor, Ms Dubé showed courage and character in accepting the task.

Limited finances and equipment no doubt stimulated the team's resourcefulness and imagination for stage setting.

The use of computer images as garden and library backgrounds, for example, was efficient and original.

The music, live at times, added a touch of appropriate playfulness.

The mix of linguistic backgrounds produced colourful and highly entertaining language effects.

The faux British and French accents of Jack, Gwendolen and Miss Prism combined geographical authenticity with cultural fantasy.

The accents of the francophone actors were representative of St. Lawrence's unique and stimulating linguistic environment, although at times they kept spectators on their toes.

The cast took advantage of the college's expertise by getting acting suggestions from French teacher Suzanne Lemay, language advice from theatre teacher Bob McBryde, dress-rehearsal reactions from English teacher John Whitt, and technical support from the college.

But finally, it was the cast's hard work which brought such interesting results and allowed each actor to show his or her own individuality.

Kudos to Jack, for his comic timing and physical presence; to Algernon, for his seductiveness and exuberance; to Gwendolen, for her expressiveness and clear enunciation, to Cecily, for her sweetness and feminine determination; to Miss Prism, for her humour and generous bosom; to Lady Bracknell, for her haughtiness and deportment; to Chasuble, for his bustling movements and kindly expression; and to Lane and Merriman for their perfect composure and stoicism.

This was a production of which the college and the English community can be proud.

It showed that theatre is important at St. Lawrence, and that students who invest their energy in the Champlain-St. Lawrence Theatre Company are well supported by their school.

There is hardly an abundance of theatre in English in Quebec City.

The Québec Art Company's and St. Lawrence's productions are the only ones that can be counted on.

Fortunately, both companies are alive and well.

And for a wildly entertaining St. Lawrence production of The Importance of Being Earnest, all came right on the night.