Edinburgh: Kaos finds there's life in the old fop yet

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The Independent Culture
The Kaos Importance Of Being Earnest Theatre Workshop Venue 20

GARY LARSON once drew a cartoon of a boneless chicken ranch in which helpless birds were strewn around, prostrate with invertebrate flabbiness. Boneless humans are much rarer in today's culture, but Jack Corcoran does a very good impression of the breed as he flops on to the stage, to be caught by three servants, distorting his body into increasingly comic poses.

The entrance is a triumph of choreography, creating a seamless physical comedy enhanced by the startled expressions on Corcoran's face. It is also an inspired interpretation of the text, for by turning Algernon Moncrieff into a decadent puppet, the production sends up the Victorian perception of such "Wildean types" as degenerates.

The Kaos Importance of Being Earnest has arrived in Edinburgh in all its gaudily camp glory after a successful prance round the UK.

Leopard-skin clings to both humans and furniture, red PVC adorns at least one pair of legs, and the set is enough glittering things to make even a Christmas tree jealous.

Algernon's spineless capers are quickly joined by the pert rubbery poses of Jack Worthing (Ralf Higgins), who looks as if he has leapt out of a cartoon world, and licks slices of bread and butter with the animation of an alsation.

Their foppish double act is the prelude to one of the most energetic and entertaining productions on this year's Fringe.

Director Xavier Leret has written that he has a "love-hate" relationship with this play. He dislikes the characters and their dilemmas "intensely". He continues: "I despise what they represent because they are so prevalent in our society - the world, it seems, has not changed from Wilde's time to ours."

It is perhaps due to this internal conflict that Leret has made the characters burn with such manic energy, for while their accessories and habits come from everyday club-culture, their features are so exaggerated that they border on the grotesque.

And so, you have a coke-sniffing aunt who literally flies up into the air in indignant rage, a clergyman who shakes and stutters with suppressed sexual desire, and a rivalry between Gwendolen and Cecily that manifests itself in punches, hair-pulling, and nipple-tweaking.

Physical theatre is becoming increasingly prevalent on the Fringe, and this production makes you realise the masterfully conceived choreography can function brilliantly as visual metaphor for emotions.

Kaos has managed to wake this play up in a way that allows Wilde's brilliance and shows that, despite current fatigue with Wildean adaptations, there's life in the old fop yet.

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