"The Importance Of Being Earnest" by Oscar Wilde.
Nottingham New Theatre.
The NNT is a little hidden goldmine which continually throws up gorgeous little gems such as this show. So many talented people.
Jack Worthing, the show's protagonist and is the guardian of 18 year old Cicely, the granddaughter of the late Thomas Cardew, who found and adopted Jack when he was a baby.
For years, he has also pretended to have an irresponsible black-sheep brother named Ernest who leads a scandalous life of a sort that requires Jack to rush off to his assistance.Ernest is merely Jack’s alibi that allows him to disappear for days at a time and do as he likes.
Jack is in love with Gwendolen, the cousin of his best friend, Algernon Moncrieff. Algernon falls for Cicely when he visits Jack at his country pile, unbeknownst to Jack. But throw into the mix Gwendolen's aunt, Lady Bracknell, the matriarch figure of the play, it's a wonder anyone wants to get married,
It's a story that have themes that are relevant today, class, deceit, marriage values, as well as shallowness.
It's my favourite of Wilde's plays. It's great fun and fluffy. I've seen several versions of the play and all have been different, and again this production had a fresh feel about it. I always felt that Wilde wrote the play to be performed over the top and that has been picked up, I think, by the director Nathan Penney and has presented a play where the acting is OTT, and boy does it work so well, really bringing out the comedy of the script and the farce elements. This is Nathan's debut as a director and he does an amazing job with "Earnest".
George Waring (John Worthing) has a wonderfully mobile face, so expressive and his plummy accent twinned with his facial work outs are just an absolute joy to watch.
James Curling (Algernon), also creates loads of comedy, often by his insatiable hunger and love of cucumber sandwiches and muffins, not all at the same time. he has a great delivery of lines, and even managed to cover up a slight amnesia moment with his lines thanks to a muffin.
Emma Summerton (Gwendolen), was wonderfully upper clarss, and her scenes with Chrissy Couquin (Cecily) after they first meet and create great confusion between Jack and Algernon and the two "Earnests". Chrissy also ramps up the "bratty" eighteen year old, again to brilliant comedic value.
Izzie Masters (Lady Bracknell) was an absolute hoot. her looks of absolute shock and horror were wonderful, pulling rank at every opportunity. i was a bit worried about poor James though when he got whacked over the head by Lady Bracknell's walking cane; you could hear the crack of either the cane or James' skull. A wonderful role and played for maximum laughs by Izzie. The line of the play "A handbag" was delivered with complete disbelief and i for one loved Izzie's version of the character.
Iona Hampson (Miss Prism), Cicely's tutor who also is the key to the whole "Earnest" issue, again is a calculated comic piece well acted out.
Making his debut for NNT is Neil Ganatra (Dr Chasuble), a suitably restrained performance for a man of the cloth but a nice debut role for Neil.
Darcey Graham (Merriman) is the servant to jack and Cicely, and who can blame her for a little snigger at the action, I was surprised that some of then others didn't crack at least a smile at the comedy unfolding around them.Self control held in, this was another good supporting role in the cast.
I'm not saying I've left the best to last because all the cast were just so brilliant in their individual roles, but Algernon's put upon servant lane, played by Joe Hincks, just cracked me, and many other audience members up completely. Every time he appeared on stage. his eye-rolling and exasperated sighs were a lesson in upper class comedy. Every thing that was asked of him seemed to be so below him and so menial. His bored expressions and raised eyebrows were just wonderful, and though I loved every character, and actor in the play, Lane was my favourite. He reminded me of the likes of Stephen Fry and Barry Howard for their pomposity. Classic.
Great sets and apt props, and I loved the scenery for the garden section, designed by Jess Donn. Wonderful costumes, which is another of NNT's strengths. brilliantly directed by Nathan Penney who extracted every drop of comedy from Wilde's rich script, ably assisted by producer Ross Brisk. Another debut for NNT as producer. Lovely simple and subtle lighting design by Ben Woodford.
One of my favourite productions of the year so far, and I've seen many excellent productions all over the place this year. Another wonderful production to add to the ever increasing list of NNT's wonderfully entertaining and varied roster of successes.
You can see "The Importance Of Being Earnest" at the Nottingham New Theatre on the Nottingham University campus until Saturday 14 May 2016. Please go if you love a laugh, and let's face it, who doesn't?