Review: The Importance Of Being Earnest at Darlington Hippodrome

Review: The Importance Of Being Earnest at Darlington Hippodrome

The Importance of Being… Earnest? 

Darlington Hippodrome

17th May 2024

I first saw this hilarious and clever production at the Edinburgh Fringe last year and thoroughly enjoyed it so I was very excited to revisit this fuller stage production at The Darlington Hippodrome this evening. I was not disappointed. The cleverness starts even before the curtain goes up with some wonderful renditions of modern songs played in the style of a string quartet, The dichotomy of styles beautifully sets the scene for the chaos that is to follow as the play starts with Algernon Moncrieff (Guido Garcia Lueches) at the piano serenading his much put upon Butler, Lane (Rhys Tees) before they both introduce an unfortunately absent Mr Earnest Worthing to the stage. From this point onwards anything can happen and it quite often does.

The exasperated director of the piece, Simon Slough (Josh Haberfield) comes onto the stage to prove the age old adage that The Show Must Go On and selects a member of the audience to play the part of Earnest in the original actor’s absence after which all manner of mishaps befall the production resulting in several other patrons of the theatre to be enlisted to help out and carry the plot to its final conclusion. 

Anyone who has seen productions of this type will no doubt draw comparisons to others of a similar genre such as Noises Off by Michael Frayn or The Play that Goes Wrong by those clever folk at Mischief Theatre and I can see why. I suggest that the use of real audience members elevates ‘…Earnest’ into a genre of its own and quite rightly brought shrieks of laughter and hilarity to the assembled audience this evening.

There are some very clever theatrical devices used during this production but two stand out for me. The actor playing character of Algernon is unable even slightly to improvise, veer from his script or blocking which Lueches pulls off with incredible skill. The pained expressions that he gives the audience are delicious and the look he gives his own left arm when he is asked to shake hands with it is a piece of comedy genius. 

Before I mention the second device, much praise has to be given to all the cast on exceptional work but particular praise goes to Rhys Tees who works tirelessly during the performance in no fewer than three roles including voicing characters who have been replaced by audience members. 

As the play progresses, Simon Slough, cuts a forlorn figure but behind every good (or not so good) director is a techie who has to sort out all manner of issues and act on his own initiative. This role falls into the hands of loveable, well meaning but accident prone Josh (Ben Mann) who is every bit as adorable in the role as Brendan Barclay was when I saw this production in Edinburgh. Brendan plays the part of George in this leg of the run but tells me he is ticking all of the roles off as he has also portrayed Earnest, The Director and even Lady Bracknell during this show’s development. 

This production hits all the clever notes of the two shows I compared it to earlier but I would suggest that it surpasses them both with clever use of the original text from Oscar Wilde and some amazing performances from both the intended actors and those parachuted in to save the show from inevitable disaster. 

Any production of The Importance of Being Earnest would be as naught without a formidable Lady Bracknell and in this production you get two for the price of one with Judith Amsenga playing a long in the tooth and borderline alcoholic actress before being replaced by an audience member due to a misfortune with her vocal chords. Trynity Silk is also delightful as Gwendolen before she too is replaced after becoming indisposed. 

This production has been four years in the making and it is quite delightful from the opening chords to the fall of the curtain at the end and the cast are only too willing to meet their fans after the show. The tour has several more stops before returning triumphantly to Edinburgh Fringe later this year. As Simon, the director suggests at the end, you can see this show more than once because there is no chance of seeing the same production from one performance to the next and it is all the more wonderful for it. 

The Importance of Being… Earnest? By Say it Again, Sorry performs at Darlington Hippodrome until Sunday 19th May.

Discover more from Home

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading