THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST Review: Alastair Whatley’s revival is an amusing, satisfyingly and sensibly silly take on Oscar Wilde’s airy comedy

The cast of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST

The cast of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. Photo Credit: The Other Richard

Alastair Whatley’s revival of THE IMPORTANCE BEING EARNEST is wonderfully witty and deliciously decadent

Oscar Wilde’s THE IMPORTANCE BEING EARNEST makes a welcome return to Manchester society this week as a new revival by The Original Theatre Company heads to Manchester’s Opera House for a week-long run.

Written by Wilde in 1894, THE IMPORTANCE BEING EARNEST tells the story of two bachelors, Jack and Algernon who create alter egos named Ernest to escape their tiresome lives. In an attempt to win the hearts of two women who, conveniently, claim to only love men called Ernest, the pair struggle to keep up with their own lies, eventually becoming tangled in a tale of deception, disguise and misadventure.

Cheerfully charming, wonderfully witty and deliciously decadent, Alastair Whatley’s revival of THE IMPORTANCE BEING EARNEST is both elegant and earnest. Set at a buoyant pace, this delightful revival brings out the wit, sarcasm and silliness of Wilde’s farcical comedy. Add in Gabriella Slade’s beautiful Art Deco style set and elaborate costume design and this production is an all-round perfectly pleasant affair.

Much of the strength of THE IMPORTANCE BEING EARNEST lies in the cast and the way in which they deliver the essence of Wilde’s play. Thomas Howes steals the show as Algernon, playing the extravagant and carefree socialite with eccentric flamboyancy as he drapes himself over every piece of furniture. His fine double act with Peter Sandys-Clarke as the suitably uptight Jack is a delight to watch and their sibling-style rivalry on stage feels both comfortable and genuine.

Gwen Taylor and Louise Coulthard in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST.

Gwen Taylor and Louise Coulthard in THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. Photo Credit: The Other Richard

In terms of the ladies, Louise Coulthard is strong as the precocious Cecily while West End star Kerry Ellis glitters with fashionable wit as Gwendoline. Interestingly, Gwen Taylor delivers a surprisingly understated performance as Lady Bracknell, choosing not to ham up the part but rather give the character a warmer, more playful edge which offers an unexpected dimension to Wilde’s most preposterous character.

In this particular production, Whatley maintains a loyal connection with Wilde’s original telling of the story and as such, the script is a little dialogue-heavy at times. This revival also doesn’t really take any risks with the text so there isn’t anything new to present to the audience.

Nevertheless, this is an amusing, satisfyingly and sensibly silly take on Oscar Wilde’s airy comedy which is full of fun, laughter and frivolity.

(4 / 5)

THE IMPORTANCE BEING EARNEST at Manchester’s Opera House runs until 17 March 2018. Ticket prices start from £19.65. 

About Donna

Donna is the Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she is a digital marketing whizz, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage, The Public Reviews and ScreenRelish. Loves Shakespeare, prosecco and Formula 1