Farce is a funny thing, for something so hilarious it is actually quite an intricate medium. A Woman of No Importance – Or Somewhat Little Importance Anyhow by Katherine Rodden is a good example of how it can be embraced by a contemporary setting. Lauren is pissed off at her parents, pissed off at her boyfriend, pissed off at Oscar Wilde, pissed off her at her agent but most of all just pissed. She is sinking into a delicious pool of wine infused self-pity when her mother arrives on her door step announcing she has left her father. What results is a weekend that unravels with both wit and physical comedy into very entertaining theatre.
In many ways it is a good decision to set the action in the one room, then all the characters have to pile into this small space and it adds to the physical comedy. The Hens and Chickens Theatre is a great intimate space and it is well suited to the play. Increasingly, it means there is a lot of movement going around the main character beyond her control that director Cat Robey uses this to great physical and comedic effect.
Interestingly, as the play goes on and gets more and more ridiculous the audience actually become more and more invested in Lauren’s parents’ row; in how much they might actually love each other and it is genuinely moving how we see them grow throughout the play. Alan Booty and Rachel Dobell are sublime as the injured parties, and their character’s quick wit is sharp enough at times to make you gasp as well as giggle.
They are ably supported in their craft by the amusing lawyers Geoffrey (Matt Houlihan) and Whathisname (Craig, played by Keith Wallis); Suitor Posh (Patrick Neyman) who is hilariously wonderful and Suitor Poor, the token lower class lad after Lauren’s heart is gamely played by David Hemsted. Both he and the lawyers bring the audience onside with just how ridiculous the toffs of this world are, before promptly diving down to their level. And then of course is Katherine Rodden playwright and protagonist as Lauren trying to make sense of the chaos.
As much as I did enjoy this in its current incarnation I feel there is space for this play to be developed further into a longer piece. I think Lauren’s character needs to discover something or change or move or be an active protagonist and the longer length will give space for her to grow. There will still need to be the one-liners and the marvelous choreographed fight scenes but working on the deep structure and movement of the play might make these even more rewarding. Sustaining the action further I don’t think would exhaust an audience, the farce was very warmly received and either way by the end we certainly all knew that that this woman is important!
A Woman of No Importance – Or Somewhat Little Importance Anyhow is currently playing at the Hens and Chickens Theatre. It is produced by Paradigm Theatre company.