"There is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations." Gwendolen knows the importance of names, while Lady Bracknell is positively obsessed with titles. The Importance of Being Earnest proves conclusively that it's all in the title, and as titles go, Princess Sharon, while not quite up there with I Was Mrs Danvers' Love Child (seen at the Manchester Festival of Expressionist Drama, natch), is pretty good. To be fair, the original Polish translates as Princess Ivona, but while sticking to that might be respectful to its author Witold Gombrowicz, the name Ivona produces "absolutely no vibrations" except "it's foreign", which isn't exactly helpful. Sharon, on the other hand, is the perfect comedy name for the story of a gormless girl who causes chaos in the castle of a pontificating prince.
It's the latest show from Scarlet Theatre Company. Back in the Eighties they were known as the Scarlet Harlets, a name that sat well alongside Beryl and the Perils, Monstrous Regiment or The Sadista Sisters. Sadly, women's companies have all but faded from the scene. The Women's Theatre Group is now touring Bryony Lavery's latest play, Goliath - based on Bea Campbell's book - but as The Sphinx, the less confrontational title they adopted a few years ago. Even the gay theatre boom should be looked at carefully for signs of (women's) life. With frighteningly rare exceptions, it's a boy's own story.
But Scarlet Theatre has been bucking the trend with a string of successful productions. Its Chekhovian hit The Sisters returned to the Edinburgh Festival to excellent notices - "winning charm and healthy irreverence," cheered this very organ - and although Princess Sharon boasts the same director, Katarzyna Deszcz, this Polish classic is a genuine departure: this time there are men on stage too. Perhaps this will encourage the Arts Council to cease pigeonholing the company's output as "women's work" and come up with realistic funding.
EYE ON THE NEW
Have the arts in this country produced anything more lovable than the sublime Wallace and Gromit? Happily for those who have worn out their videos, our two heroes take the stage this week. Coming to you from the men responsible for putting Thunderbirds on the boards, a laugh or 12 looks to be guaranteed.
Wallace and Gromit, Churchill Theatre, Bromley (0181-460 6677), from 10 AprReuse content