The Importance of being Earnest is possibly Oscar Wildes most loved play. First performed in 1895 at London’s St James Theatre it was labelled as ‘a trivial comedy for serious people’. Shortly after the play opened, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for being gay which led to the show being closed. The show tried to open on Broadway but sadly closed after 16 performances. These days the show is well received all around the world and is performed regularly.
The Importance of being Earnest is a pleasant show that cleverly tries to incorporate more of a farce than usual with the addition of the Bunbury Players, an amateur dramatics group who are rehearsing for the play they are putting on (The Importance). The show begins with comedy preparations of props, forgotten lines and missing shoes but quickly seems to forget all this and just continue with the play. I felt a lot of thought had been put into the beginning of the show but then someone got bored and decided to just leave the rest of the play as it was originally which did upset the balance. The faux programme for the show inside the actual programme is a nice touch and helps to add to the farce.
The cast of this production all gel nicely together. Nigel Havers (Algernon Moncrieff) and Martin Jarvis (John Worthing) reprise their roles from the 1982 National Theatre production, more than 30 years after they originally performed together. Sian Phillips plays the iconic Lady Bracknell with poise and charm. Sian was last seen in the West End in the slightly different show Cabaret, alongside Will Young.
William Dudley’s design is pleasant and the double doors leading out to the garden felt inviting with the sunshine blaring in.
I enjoyed The Importance of being Earnest but if you are going to play around with a classic then you need to make sure you do it well and sadly I felt it was a little half heartedly done. Definitely worth popping along to check it out though.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
The Importance of being Earnest is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 20 September 2014. For more information and to book tickets click here.