The open-air theatre, a genre OSC continues to make its own, brings an added dimension to the text thanks to Chris Pickles' insightful direction. Staging the show 'in the round' is a device used imaginatively by this highly talented professional ensemble, as they stay in character both on and off stage. This leads to a delicious frisson as the audience encounters Cecily (Clare Fraenkel), as fragrant and uplifting as the roses she waters, on her way to lessons. A sincere Rev. Canon Chasuble (Nigel Lister) is seen deep in reverential thought from a distance long before his ardent admirer, Miss Prism, gets her claws into him. Before making a decadent entrance, a mesmerising Algernon (Christian Edwards) takes great delight in a cigarette. This quintessential Oxford Summer play is given two short intervals to allow the audience to enjoy refreshments in the beautiful surroundings.
The stylish use of cushions on a minimal set takes us cleverly from Algernon's Half-Moon Street flat in Mayfair, to Jack's Hertfordshire country house garden. Each residence has its own manservant or butler (Rod Matthew) whose cultivated voice makes the audience feel part of this High Society. So engaging are the characters, one almost expects a well-measured Gwendolyn (Kali Peacock) to pass along the bread and butter to the audience. An inescapable benchmark of any production of this play is the reading of Lady Bracknell, with distinguished portrayals being united by their diverse styles of delivery. John Brenner certainly gives us a Gorgon to be reckoned with! This innovative casting along with a passionate Miss Prism (Ian Bass) adds force to a much relished battle when Lady Bracknell squares up to Miss Prism over the matter of a lost baby. So, what will bring you up to Wadham Gardens, this reviewer wonders? 'Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere?' for this hilarious, intelligent and elegant production is, 'As right as a trivet!'