Review- The Importance of Being Earnest- Shadow Players


By: Lisa Middleton


How can you compress the grandness of Oscar Wilde’s Victorian England to the confines of Hong Kong? The Shadow Players beautifully showed the local audience how to do it.  The minimalist set took nothing away from the play, in fact, it allowed for the characters and their varied personalities to shine even more. 


Firstly, let me apologise for the ultimate theatre-goer faux-pax. I was a tad late (you try getting a taxi on the eve of the mid-autumn festival), I hope I didn’t disturb anyone, but it quickly became apparent that the audience were engrossed in the show, and this remained that way.  


The first thing that impressed me about the actors was their clear diction in the portrayal of each of their characters. Each of the players in their way characterised the underlying desire for wealth and status in today’s Hong Kong just as much as in Victorian England.  The second thing that impressed me was the careful adaptation of bringing this script to modern day without compromising any of Wilde’s originality. The key points were not lost in the editing and indeed, I enjoyed the focus on these characters much more than any other production I have seen in the past. 

Christopher Tsui as Algernon Mok has perfected acting while eating to a whole new level.  The frequency in which he was eating onstage and his blasé attitude about everyone else feeding him, was no mean feat.  None of his lines was lost behind stuffing muffins or cucumber sandwiches into his mouth which I personally applaud him for.  His insatiable greed for sustenance and wealth (without having to work for it, either) were evident from the very first scene.

Joseph Lin as Jack Sui was the standout performer for me; his voice had me enthralled, and his physicality of injustice and outrage at certain points were worthier of a bigger stage.  He acquits himself entirely admirably, and you can see the progression of his character clearly.  


Now we turn to the female characters which could have possibly been a disaster, but, no the casting was perfect, and the portrayal of each of the different women was intense and entertaining.  Lady Augusta Kwan as portrayed by Minna Cheung was possibly less severe than previous performers have delivered but she succeeded in showing the cut-throat tiger-mom desire of mothers wanting the best for their daughters regardless of feelings.  

Kammy Kwan as Gwendolyn Kwan had the best comedic timing I have seen on stage in Hong Kong for a long time; she was able to be demure and wanton at the same time with ease.  I would like to have seen more of an underlying current of sexual attraction between Gwendolyn and Jack for this to have raised the tension a little more but as it is a fast-paced comedy I can forgive this.  Cecily, as portrayed by Joanne Leung, was initially quite weak for me, but she came into herself entirely during the scene where she first meets Gwendolyn, and the interaction between these two characters could easily have been Victorian England or modern day Hong Kong –  excellent chemistry indeed.  


Miss Prism played by Yolanda So, whose own story was not told was nevertheless a classic delivery. The execution of the satirical elements of recent social events in Hong Kong was perfect and had the audience laughing out loud frequently.  The blending of Hong Kong society with the privileged English society of Victorian times is seamless and to be applauded. The comedic timing of all of the actors made this play fast-paced and as witty as I am sure Wilde intended it to be – bravo to all.  


The Shadow Players hoped their Earnest would come across as approachable, relevant, and above all funny to Hong Kong audiences. Mission accomplished I would say.  This is a thoroughly enjoyable and affordable production and not to be missed in my opinion.  The Shadow Players are definitely on my radar for future performances.  


The Importance of Being Earnest runs through September 16th at Sheung Wan Civic Centre. For more information, click here.


Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 5.0


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