Lady Bracknell's Confinement is a fifty minute monologue written by Paul Doust, that was first published in 1994, and is here performed by John Elkington. There is much positive to be said both about the writing of this piece and Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company’s production of it. First and foremost it provides the audience with a witty and engaging theatrical experience with a moment of great pathos thrown in for good measure.
Lady Bracknell, of “A handbag!” fame, is a character taken from Oscar Wilde’s classic play The Importance of Being Earnest, currently showing in the main house. Lady Bracknell’s Confinement endeavours to answer the question “Why is she such an old battleaxe?” and arrives at an altogether surreal conclusion.
An audience member does not need to have any prior knowledge of Oscar Wilde’s play to appreciate this work as little extracts are included to provide a link to Wilde’s original. Personally I felt my prior knowledge helped and hindered my appreciation of this production in equal measure.
John Elkington gave an assured and highly polished performance with great care taken over every syllable and gesture, which was a delight to watch. A monologue is one of the hardest tests for an actor but here the audience were engrossed from initial entrance to final bow. In particular his movement around the simple set, although thoughtfully choreographed, never felt contrived or unnatural.
The writing was superb, a clever pastiche of Wilde’s iconic style and wit with the odd modernism thrown in. These modernisms highlighted that this was not an attempt to emulate Wilde’s prose but a gentle parody of the great man. There was much laughter throughout the production and at one point Lady Bracknell chided us lightly for, as she would have put it, “our impropriety”.
At one point the text could have taken an altogether sexually explicit turn. Lady Bracknell however demurred on account of being far too decorous a lady to say more. Which, of course, let each member of the audience paint a lurid picture in own mind. I am sure Lady Bracknell would not have approved with the scene that my mind conjured up!
My complaint about the writing is that I left the studio with a couple of plot threads hanging and try as I might I cannot quite tie them up. Of course that may be down to me but I was attentive throughout, honest.
Although this is a studio production it is so much more than an actor in a black box with both the set, properties and costumes delightfully realised and supported by excellent lighting and sound. You could see the studio show before or after the main house production, but do take in both if you can
Lady Bracknell’s Confinement runs in the Neville Studio at the Nottingham Playhouse until 22 September 2012.