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The Importance Of Being Earnest review from August 1999

The story concerns Jack Worthing's complicated relationship with Gwendolen Fairfax, the daughter of the formidable Lady Bracknell. Jack wants to marry Gwendolen, but first he has to convince Lady Bracknell that he is suitable, which is not easy, particularly when he reveals details about his parentage. To add to his problems he has been telling everyone, including Gwendolen, that his name is Earnest and just as he decides to tell the truth he discovers that Gwendolen is infatuated with the name Earnest and desires to marry a man by that name. Then to make matters worse his ward, Cecily, has fallen in love with his rascal of a friend, Algernon.

This comedy classic from Oscar Wilde, written in the summer of 1894, while on holiday with his family in the town of Worthing, has many witty lines such as "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train", and "To lose one parent...may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness." But then, most people know the quality of Oscar's writing, what theatregoers want to know is how good is this new production of 'The Importance of Being Earnest? The answer is very good!

To get the best from Wilde's writing you need actors who can carry it off, and the producers have certainly found such actors, particularly in Patricia Routledge who is simply terrific as 'Lady Bracknell'. She captures the essence of the character brilliantly, looking and sounding very fierce! Patricia Routledge is a very accomplished actor who has theatre credits spanning Broadway, the West End and both the RNT and RSC. Her last appearance in the West End was as 'Mrs Malaprop' in "The Rivals" at the Albery Theatre in 1994. However, most people will know her for her portrayal of 'Hyacinth Bucket' (pronounced 'Bouquet') in the long running BBC comedy series "Keeping Up Appearances", which earned her the title of Top Television Comedy Actress in 1991. In 1998 she completed her fourth series of "Hetty Wainthropp Investigates" also for the BBC.

Adam Godley is a fine 'John Worthing' and has once again shown his wide variety of acting skills. I have seen Adam in many plays, playing many diverse parts and he is always very competent and convincing. His recent work, as 'Kenneth Williams' in "Cleo, Camping, Emanuelle and Dick" was phenomenal. There are also admirable performances from Saskia Wickham as ' Gwendolen', Alan Cox as 'Algernon' and Rebecca Johnson as ' Cecily', all contributing to a classy and lively play.

This productions has received good notices from the popular press: THE TIMES says, "Morahan gives us a decently acted, neatly detailed, thoroughly enjoyable production. " THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Though staid, his production is thoroughly enjoyable and has flashes of brilliance: among them the odd linguistic lapse from Routledge's subdued Lady B, which reveal her fortune-hunting instincts." DOMINIC CAVENDISH of TIME OUT says, "Style is something you'd imagine any production of such a frequently rehashed play would hanker after, but there is a surprising amount of slovenliness in this lively Chichester Festival transfer." ALEXA BARACAIA of THE STAGE says, " Christopher Morahan's production was neat and accomplished, yet largely unremarkable. It worked because it is a perfectly crafted comic masterpiece - but thanks for that must go to Wilde." THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "From start to finish, this production is a happy, happy time in the theatre."

This is an enjoyable play that is beautifully acted. It doesn't matter how often you have seen "The Importance of Being Earnest " in the past, it is still well worth seeing again and again particularly when the play is as well produced as this one.

(Darren Dalglish)

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