Review: Importance Of Being Earnest at Northern Stage

Review: Importance Of Being Earnest at Northern Stage

English Touring Theatre and 2021 Sir Peter Hall Directors Award-winner, Denzel Westley-Sanderson bring us this production of Oscar Wilde’s sharpest and wittiest comedy: The Importance of Being Earnest. 

Two friends. Two Alter Egos and One man called Earnest who has the love of two women who just adore the name. 

Humour ensues as this one elusive character appears to be two different people to two different women. Can the two men with Alter Egos maintain their pretence? Or do they get found out for their true selves? And just who is Earnest? 

John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff played by Justice Ritchie and Abiola Owokoniran respectively are two friends in society who enjoy life both in the city and the quiet country. But to do so, use alter egos to getaway. I particularly enjoyed the back and forth banter and whit between these two trading off against each other. With moments that were like a benny hill chase around the stage just added to the humour. 

John Worthing identifies as imaginary brother Earnest when in the city and has found the eye of Gwendolen (Adele James) of whom he adores and proposes to. Yet at home in the country Worthing is a strict ward for young Cecily (Phoebe Campbell).

Algernon in his mischievous manner wants to meet this young ward, and so takes on the identity of this imaginary brother Earnest and visits Worthings house in the country. 

On arrival at the country estate we find an excitable Cecily has already been told so much about him. Enamoured in everything she has heard about this city boy with the wonderful name of Earnest and his playful ways, she has proposed and planned the whole relationship already. 

Confusion, Lies and stories start to unfold when both of these friends meet under their respective identities, for they should never have been in the same vicinity. Greater hilarity ensues when Gwendolen arrives. We see if Gwen and Cecily can be best friends as they find out they both love their versions of Earnest, if he even exists at all?!

We also see love blossom with local Dr Chasuble (Anita Reynolds) and Miss Prism (Joanne Henry). While Lady Bracknell (Daniel Jacob) tries to ensure that her daughter only marries the best that society has to offer. 

Valentines Hanson as butler Merriman and Lane, may not have had many lines but gave us a perfect example of acting with emotion and movement. Bringing subtle humour to scenes.

Based in Victorian high society our characters are clothed appropriately for the era. The wide stage is cleverly designed. Tinted walls that allow for characters to be seen right through them, give us the opportunity to see the action from the characters behind the main focal point. Moving stage parts meant we could be transported from a living room to garden with ease. 

This show bring plenty of humour, quips and plays on society requirements perfectly. In an era we are used to typically seeing white characters in these roles this show writes back into history black characters that were so often taken out. Lady Bracknell being played in Drag is something we don’t usually see in theatre (unless Panto) and brings forward blind casting and perception to who can play what roles. 

I’d definitely recommend seeing this before it leaves Northern Stage. It’s a great production and makes for a classic story in a whole new interpretation. All the cast bring their own personality to their roles, make them their own and bring a great deal of well spoken Victorian scripting and humour to the stage.

The Importance of Earnest comes to Northern Stage 4-8 October. Tickets are available from £10 

To mark Black History Month, there’s a free photography exhibition accompanying the tour The Black Chronicles Exhibition showcases studio portraits depicting sitters of African, Caribbean and South Asian descent during the Victorian era in Britain. 

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