IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, THE (2016)
Jack Worthing (Michael Benz) is a bachelor in his mid 30s at the turn of the 19th century, with a sedate and respectable lifestyle in the country, caring for his ward, the pretty 18 year old Cecily Cardew (Imogen Doel). When he goes to London, it's to attend to problems caused by his wayward brother Ernest. Jack's mischievous alter ego. When Ernest meets up with the carefree and indebted Algy Moncreef (Philip Cumbus), they enjoy the high life together. And when Algy needs a break (or an excuse), he visits Bunbury, his sickly friend in the country. But when, as Ernest, Jack tries to propose to the girl of his dreams, Gwendolen (Emily Barber), he has to pass muster by Gwen's mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell (David Suchet). And when Algy decides to don the guise of Ernest so he can visit Jack's pretty ward Cecily, things get terribly complicated - and the story of Jack's uncertain ancestry is accidentally revealed. (London Vaudeville Theatre production, 2015)
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Oscar Wilde is the undoubted and unseen star of this play - always was and will be. His wit, encased in sublime and wicked use of English, is not only sharp, it is pointedly observed and satirical. Considering the play was first performed in 1895 (St James's Theatre London), it is remarkably vibrant and even contemporary in its exploration of social mores. Well, perhaps more accurately in its excoriation of Victorian social mores among the upper classes as it were.
But Wilde avoids vulgarity, both in style and content, to enable the cast to deliver a juicy romantic farce within the social satire. And this is where the oversized character of Lady Bracknell comes in: it she around whom the plot and the satire pivots and casting her is always the first trick to the play's success. David Suchet, known for his portrayal of Hercule Poirot, is a clever choice, since by virtue of his being a man he can get away with being so excessively arch - no female actor could get away with it.
The familiar dialogue is eternally irresistible, and this rather simple, symmetrical but effective production highlights it to perfection. It's a joy to revel in such writing.
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IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, THE (2016) (G)
CAST: David Suchet, Emily Barber, Michael Benz
PRODUCER: Kim Poster, Nica Burns
DIRECTOR: Adrian Noble
SCRIPT: Oscar Wilde (play)
MUSIC: Larry Blank
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Peter McKintosh
RUNNING TIME: 149 minutes (with 2 intervals)
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 6, 2016