"witty, earthy and subversive"

"an entertaining conclusion"
-The Evening Standard-

"Fiona Button is the stand-out"

Sorry, The Importance of Being Earnest closed on 20 Oct 2018

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"An undeniable crowd-pleaser"

Critic Rating

7 August 2018, Vaudeville Theatre
Susannah Martin Susannah Martin
It comes as no surprise that Classic Spring Company Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole chose to round off his first season with Oscar Wilde’s ever-present The Importance of Being Earnest. An undeniable crowd-pleaser, especially amongst the white-haired patrons of the Vaudeville, you could argue that this was an easy money-maker to end an otherwise forgettable season. But this joyous revival allows the company’s inauguration to go out with a bang.

An immediate relief that draws the show away from the void of middle-class costume drama (even though it is) is the tangible talent at the helm; Fehinti Balogun and Jacob Fortune-Lloyd are a wicked pairing as deceitful duo Algernon and Jack. Wilde’s fierce comedy seems at home between the two, and literally bounces off the walls of Madeleine Girling’s oddly ominous set. There’s also nice support from Geoffrey Freshwater as doting butler Lane.

The best work comes from the women, though; Sophie Thompson is a simply delicious Lady Bracknell, speaking in a plummy voice that travels through octaves, eking out every ounce of comedic potential from every line. Pippa Nixon impresses as a lustful Gwendolen Fairfax, positively gyrating with passion, which gives the character a lot more dimension than simpering support. Fiona Button steals it though, as a hugely vivacious Cecily. Not only is she wonderfully funny, but gives an dangerously sappy character tremendous spirit.

Michael Fentiman draws out the laughs in Wilde’s notoriously amusing play, and also succeeds in suggesting Wilde’s homosexual desires with a deliciously explicit Algernon, who flirts insatiably with just about everyone. Where Earnest falls down is the complete lack of diversity, again. Unfortunately, Dromgoole’s season has featured an almost all-white cast, which by today’s standards isn’t really good enough. And whilst you can’t take away from the talent and entertainment of the evening, the issue is glaringly obvious throughout.

Reviewed by Susannah Rose Martin.

I didn't think I needed to see this play again, but I was so happy to encounter this thrilling new approach which – for all the period trappings – make Earnest feel new and vital. Unforgettable, life-enhancing, and with an edge of surprise.
Henry Hitchings
But even if this isn’t the most subtle take on the play, the one-liners retain their sparkle. Unafraid of daftness and exaggeration, it’s an entertaining conclusion to the Classic Spring company’s year-long West End celebration of Wilde.
Luckily, the play itself is obviously and eternally very funny. Even these often over-done performances still hit plenty of gorgeous, gleeful moments.
Natasha Tripney
Denuded of nuance, it reduces every character to a caricature and pitches the comedy at such a frenzied level from the outset it allows it nowhere to go and no space to grow.