The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
A Curve and Birmingham Rep co-production
Curve, Leicester from 6 - 29 October
Review by: Paul Towers, 11 October 2016
'a production not to be missed and should tour forever'
Watching an Oscar Wilde play you are guaranteed an evening of sparkling wit and including, in the case of Earnest, virtually every notable quote Wilde is remembered for.
However, in this revival Curve's Director Nikolai Foster and designer Isla Shaw have ramped up the sparkle to an almost parodical level whereby the set almost outshines the dialogue. The stage is lined, side to side, top to bottom with mirrored panes meaning there is nowhere to hide from the razor sharp epithets and aphorisms of Wildean wit. It also illustrates perfectly the inherent narcissism, decadence and vanity of the world of Earnest and his companions. While the manners and furniture are Victorian the costumes are an interesting melange of period and modern sensibilities which sits perfectly with the set.
This comedy of manners relies heavily on every phrase being enunciated, projected and audible to every member of the audience and this cast made sure every line was heard clearly.
There is something beautifully rhythmic about the prose which means that all the laughs seem to be written into the text and the actors rarely have to pause and wait for the audience to stop laughing.
While Edward Franklin's fey, dissolute Algy and Fela Lufadeju's John Worthing are the central characters of the story it was Cathy Tyson's Lady Bracknell we were all holding our breath waiting for. Would she do an Edith Evans or a David Suchet when it came to THAT line? Well I am pleased to say that Ms Tyson copied no-one and made the handbag line her very own with a fabulous sense of outraged conservatism. As the leading (young) ladies of the piece Martha Washington and Sharan Phull as Gwendolen and Cecily are a joy to watch as they vacillate between outrage at being deceived and their desire to marry their beaus. Angela Clerkin's prissy Miss Prism throws herself around in faux outrage as her past deceits find her out. Each of the characters are explicitly drawn and none are wasted. Even Darren Bennett's Merriman's largely silent butler gets unwritten laughs from a raised eyebrow or a sigh. While Dominic Gately's Dr Chasuble channels his inner camp to bring the pastor to life.
Scene changes were beautifully choreographed utilising the many doors set within the mirrors and the interval, much like a television commercial break, merely paused the action while the audience caught its breath.
This is a production not to be missed and deserves to tour forever.
The Importance of Being Earnest runs at Curve until 29 October.
Full details available at Curve website