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The Importance of Being Earnest

Published by: Irish Reviewers on 15th Nov 2013 | View all blogs by Irish Reviewers

The NI Opera & Wide Open Opera presented with style; The Importance of Being Earnest by Gerald Barry.


The Importance of Being Earnest, a play by Oscar Wilde, is a trivial comedy for serious people. It is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personæ in order to escape burdensome social obligations. Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play's major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways. Contemporary reviews all praised the play's humour, though some were cautious about its explicit lack of social messages, while others foresaw the modern consensus that it was the culmination of Wilde's artistic career so far. Its high farce and witty dialogue have helped make The Importance of Being Earnest Wilde's most enduringly popular play.


John Worthing (Earnest) is played superbly by Peter Tantsits. His portrayal seems effortless and engrossing. You really do miss him when he leaves a scene and rejoice on his return.


Gerald Barry has retold The Importance of Being Earnest, in a third of the original content giving it quite a lot more musical accompaniment and opera than you might expect. However, what you can expect is to be enthralled and excited by this experimental and unexpected retelling of ‘Earnest’. This exciting version proves to be a bracing experience with a very unique approach. Rest assured the beautiful set, gorgeous choreography, perfect timing and stunning lighting will not fail to dazzle and please you.Plates are smashed, mallets smacked, loud speakers used to convey a very polite cat fight and the 21 strong Crash Orchestra also speak as a chorus cast member. From amazing fur hats, a cheeky lime green fishing line and sharp dinner jackets. The costume for this production was in itself a performance


Cecily (played by Aoife Miskelly) and Gwendolen (played by Jessica Walker) make a wonderful pair of fickle friends and when the mood suits, portray dedicated sisters with perfect comic timing and stunning costumes.


The opera has cast a male Lady Bracknell (Stephen Richardson), this is not the first time Bracknell has been portrayed by a man but he would usually be spotted sporting an enormous Victorian gown, in this version Bracknell is suited. Playing even further on the gender bending brilliance his costume is replete with a spilt tailed bustle. The outfit really is a thing of svelte, suave, shiny grey beauty.


The overall production is near flawless, the perfection of movement, complicité of the cast and overall finish is remarkable but it was at times so ground breaking that it left me wondering have they done this to improve the scene or just to see how outrageous they can get in the name of contemporary opera, which is an exciting boundary to watch out for from NI Opera & Wide Open Opera in the future.


When 40 plates are smashed in quick succession, one must maintain such a high level of absurd integrity thereafter. This show is a beautiful spectacle and worth it for the ‘Handbag’ scene alone.


Joseph Kearney

Irish Reviewers


To follow the tour dates of this production you can visit



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