Writer: Oscar Wilde
Director: Lucy Bailey
Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen
Direct from the West End, The Importance of Being Earnest has officially hit The Lowry’s stage – bringing to life some of Oscar Wilde’s most iconic and timeless dialogue with wit, charm, and plenty of charisma.
For this production, directed by Lucy Bailey, the decision has been made to use a “play within a play” concept. Professional actors, including Nigel Havers as Algernon Moncrieff and Martin Jarvis as John Worthing, take on the rôle of amateurs in rehearsal, and an already farcical piece of writing is given an extra layer of hilarity. For anybody who has taken part in local theatre, the cast and crew characters are truly “bob on”, pulling together as their own little family amid panic, gossip and bucket loads of fun.
From the props going missing (don’t mention the cucumber sandwiches), to the sound cues going wrong, to 50 Shades of Grey and Nike trainers appearing in a play set in 1895, there are plenty of recognisable incidents that successfully add something different to a hugely popular masterpiece. Dubbed “A Trivial Comedy for Serious People”, this is a play about two bachelors (Havers and Jarvis) from Victorian society who have created two different identities in a bid to win over two eligible ladies Cecily Cardew (Christine Kavanagh) and Gwendolen Fairfax (Carmen Du Sautoy).
In their varying rôles as cast and character, the performers never falter, and have a real camaraderie on the stage that shines into the auditorium. Their enthusiasm and energy for the production transcends into the audience, and at times, especially in Act Two, their rapport is enough to leave the audience in stitches. In particular, Kavanagh and Sautoy make a fabulous female double act, their disdain and ultimate love for one another proving a real joy to watch. Sian Phillips as Lady Bracknell is also a real treat, with the infamous “handbag” line being delivered to perfection.
The only criticisms that can really be said about the overall experience of the production isthat the volume needs to be bumped up at the very beginning of the show and that an interval longer than 15 minutes is required. For such a comedic and easy-going piece of theatre, the rush during the break was completely unnecessary – with queues for the bar still forming as the two-minute call was given.
But in all earnestness, this is a production with a stellar cast, a superb set and a stunning piece of writing that needs to be seen and supported before it leaves Salford on Saturday – and, of course, we all know the importance of being earnest!
Runs until 10 October 2015 | Image: Contributed