Oscar Wilde’s most celebrated play comes to the tiny Tabard Theatre in Turnham Green, and it is a lot of fun as ever.
This is a shortened version (no “cake” for Gwendolen) with some more modern modifications (the “cab” rather than the “carriage”), and rather more giggling and physical scrapping than you’ll have seen in previous versions. I have to point out, that more than one of the cast stumble over some of those iconic lines, which is a shame.
To bring something fresh and new to Wilde means to take risks with the material – it doesn’t have to mean casting David Suchet as Lady Bracknell, but it should bring something different to the table, and adding a throwaway line after the iconic closer isn’t necessarily the way.
As Lady B, Non Vaughan-Thomas definitely channels the spirit of Edith Evans from the classic film version of Earnest, but with additional, and hilarious, face-pulling.
With a wide-eyed Gwendolen (Melissa Knighton, pleasingly haughty), and a juvenile giggler of an Algernon (Samuel Oakes), this version sometimes wanders into the sphere of farce, but Wilde’s clever wit always pulls it back.
As Jack, Tim Gibson mugs well but misses the stoic seriousness of the country gentleman, but Kirsty Jackson’s annoyingly imaginative and twittery Cecily is a delight.
Paul Foulds (in several small parts, laconic servants and officials), Dean Harris (as Chasuble) and Jo Ashe (as a Prism quivering with piety) round out the cast in a production directed by David Phipps-Davis and designed by Leah Sams.
The Importance of Being Earnest runs at this quirky and eccentric theatre until 23 June. Photos by Andreas Grieger.