THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST by Oscar Wilde.
Oscar Wilde's classic comedy just gets better, and funnier, every time I see it. A story of deception, family values, love and elitism. best friends Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing are both telling porkies to their friends, John to Gwendolen Fairfax, the lady he wants to marry,and Algernon to just about everyone to get him excused from occasions where he would rather not be, by inventing a friend who is sadly on the decline, health wise.
John is found out by Algernon that he is passing himself off as Earnest to his young ward, Cecily, as well as Gwendolen, and Algernon sets out to find out who Cecily is by deciding to turn up unannounced at John's country spread where Cecily lives, but passing himself off as John's invented brother, Earnest.All manor of mayhem is caused until thanks to Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen's aunt, the truth is outed.
Algernon and John are played with great gusto by Philip Cumbus and Michael Benz respectively and make a marvellous quick fire comedy pairing. A lot of the comedy surrounds the eating of sandwiches and muffins, believe it or not! The wonderfully, if not slightly ditsy, Cecily is another lovely comedy role and Imogen Doel turns in a beautiful performance of over exuberance which was infectious as the young ward.
Michelle Dotrice plays Miss Prism, the governess who once worked for Lady Bracknell and was responsible for leaving the baby in the handbag while out briskly pushing the perambulator, all those 29 odd years ago. Again a wonderfully comic performance, especially in her scenes with the Reverand, played by Richard O Callaghan.
Gwendolen is played by Emily Barber and again the scenes with Cecily are just perfect. The confusion caused by the two suitors with these two created a perfect recipe for laughs and both ladies delivered with excellent comic timing.
And so to the star of the play, Lady Bracknell. With her sharp, often acidic tongue, she knew how to stamp class on a family and wither a man with just one look, the ultimate matriarch, Now David Suchet is not a name that would instantly come to mind to play such an iconic woman from comedy literature, but he completely nailed the role. For those who may only have seen his Poirot character this is as far away from the Belgian detective as you can get but he has great presence of character and can deliver a comic line at the same time as darting a look to place you six feet under. Of late Lady Bracknell has been played by a male actor in films and on stage and far from it taking on a panto image, get the actor right and the role takes on a completely different, but believable edge, David Suchet was wonderful and an inspired piece of casting. Maybe with the role being so far removed from his TV detective persona is what made the casting so inspired.
Wilde's lines are just as funny, doesn't matter how many times you hear them, with a good cast they still sound fresh and funny. The scenery was gorgeous with three acts, as Wilde wrote them, having three different sets of scenery. All three reflecting the decadence of the era and have that wow factor.
With the two 15 minute intervals, the play comes in at just under two and a half hours, but every time I see "Earnest" it seems shorter than the given time, a sure sign that time really does fly when you're having fun.
Let's face it, this is one of literature's comedy masterpieces and director Adrian Noble didn't put a foot wrong here. Great atmosphere, great costumes, great scenery, a great bunch of actors and supporting actors and a silly but very funny story. you'd be a fool not to see it.
"The Importance Of Being Earnest" is on at The Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 16 May 2015.