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The Importance of Being Earnest @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Published by: Yvonne Delahaye on 7th Oct 2014 | View all blogs by Yvonne Delahaye

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What an absolute joy it was to see this star studded production, which has just transferred directly from the Harold Pinter Theatre in London after a hugely successful 3 month run.  Reprising their 1982 National Theatre roles as Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing, J.P. are Nigel Havers and Martin Jarvis.  When this cast was first mentioned I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to raise an eyebrow, after all John Worthing is supposed to be 29 and these 2 accomplished actors are, shall we say, a 'little way into middle age?'  How would this work I wondered, but of course all is not as it first seems for this is a play within a play.  Acclaimed comic novelist, Simon Brett, was commissioned to create an original new context for the play and the play opens with the actors from The Bunbury Company of Players rehearsing their next production.  It’s a brilliant concept and works like magic, so any concerns about age are quickly dispelled as we are absorbed into this joyful scenario.

The Importance of Being Earnest elegantly lampoons the hypocrisies of Victorian society and opens as two bachelors, the dependable, John Worthing, J.P. (Martin Jarvis) and upper class playboy Algernon Moncrieff (Nigel Havers), feel compelled to create different identities in order to pursue two eligible ladies Cecily Cardew (Christine Kavanagh) and Gwendolyn Fairfax (Cherie Lunghi). The hilarious misadventures which result from their subterfuge;  their brushes with the redoubtable Lady Bracknell (Siân Phillips) and the uptight Miss Prism (Rosalind Ayres) result in a plot that twists and fizzles with some of the finest dialogue to be found in theatre.   

The play moves along at a firecracker pace with the rakish charm of Nigel Havers still very much in evidence and Martin Jarvis’s stature and resonant voice lending a gravitas to the role.  The cast are all wonderful, but of course Lady Bracknell always steals the show and Sian Phillips is absolutely magnificent.  Every line delivered is ‘bang on the money’ and her energy is astounding.  I know how physically demanding it is to deliver 8 shows a week and I am in awe of her stamina, though she has, of course,  ‘remained thirty five for years!’

The notable cast also includes Niall Buggy and Patrick Godfrey, who also played Merriman in the 2002 film adaption of The Importance of Being Earnest.  The Bunbury Players include Portia Booroff, Carole Dance and Hugh Osborne who are on stage throughout ready to take over a role at a moment’s notice.

Rupert Gavin, producer for Incidental Colman, said “For our 100th production, in our 33rd year as a producing company with a long tradition in comedy, we are celebrating this milestone with a production of the landmark comedy in the English language, The Importance of Being Earnest. For
this, we have drawn together an exceptional creative team, a group of brilliant comedic actors, and we bring of course, a twist to proceedings, that you would only expect of us.”

Lucy Bailey, Director, said “I was lucky enough as a student, to be allowed to observe rehearsals of Peter Hall’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the National Theatre in the early 80's. I remember watching Nigel Havers and Martin Jarvis wrestle over cucumber sandwiches and being entranced by their charm and playfulness. When they approached me, some 30 years later, to work with them on a new production, I just couldn't resist! We have created a new framework for the play, aided and abetted by the writer Simon Brett and designer William Dudley. We have gathered together an exquisite acting ensemble to take on the challenge of Oscar Wilde's most popular and daring play.”

Seeing such a stellar cast having an absolute ball relishing their roles will be one of the lasting memories I’ll have of live theatre.  Even if you have to queue to get a return ticket, it really would be worth it as this has to be one of the best pieces of theatre you’ll ever see!

Book now at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre Box Office on 0844 871 7607 (bkg fee), or online at www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury  (bkg fee)

Performances:   Mon 06 - Sat 11 Oct 
Evenings 7.30pm, Thu & Sat Mat 2.30pm
Tickets:  £10 - £35 when booked in person at the Box Office or for full details when booking on-line or over the phone visit www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury (bkg fee)
Box Office:  0844 871 7607 (bkg fee)
Groups Hotline:  0844 871 7614
Access Booking: 0844 871 7677 (bkg fee)
Online Booking: www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury  (bkg fee)

Tour continues to:
Richmond Theatre from Monday 13th-Saturday 18th October
New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham from Tuesday 21st – Saturday 25th October

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye
6.10.14
Twitter: yvonnedelahaye

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