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Articles and Reviews: Theatre

The Importance of Being Earnest

ByOscar Wilde

With a play as great as Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest, arguably the most perfect comedy in the English language, it is nigh on impossible to go wrong. As with the last really worthwhile production at The Abbey, last spring’s Six Characters In Search Of An Author by Pirandello, such seminal texts would have to be subjected to extremely unsympathetic design, direction and performances before they could be rendered completely unwatchable. Fortunately, the current rendering at the national theatre suffers under no such constraints, and good work from all concerned combines to make this an evening of almost untrammelled joy for the audience.

 

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Francis O’Connor’s stage set is as adventurous and bold as we have come to expect from his best work, while Patrick Mason’s direction, although perhaps going for the more obvious big laughs at the expense of the subtle implications, at least avoids the trap of doing everything like we’ve heard it before, as when Rosaleen Linehan as Lady Bracknell comes out with a much more muted and shocked ‘a handbag’ than the imperious tone we have come to associate with that utterance, courtesy of Dame Edith Evans’ near definitive interpretation of the part.
Linehan shines as the old dragon, showing that there’s more than one way to play Lady Bracknell, but the entire cast scarcely puts a foot wrong. Dawn Bradfield as the precocious Cecily, and Harry Towb as the shambling Chasuble, are particularly memorable. This show will warm the cockles of many hearts for the winter evenings to come, and shows once again that, ultimately, ‘the play’s the thing’.

First published in 46A


 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

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