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Theatre Review: The Importance of Being Earnest

By Julia Parry | 20th November 2015

"A Handbag?"

Oscar Wilde’s much loved ‘immortal comedy’ arrives at The Grand Opera House York this week in a stunning new production fresh from a highly successful stint in The West End. This innovative re-imagining of the original play (first performed in 1895) and subtitled by Wilde ‘A Trivial Comedy for Serious People’ is brought to York by The Bunbury Company of Players on a last run through of their final rehearsal before performance.

Acclaimed Director Lucy Bailey has achieved a highly entertaining new take on arguably Wilde’s most popular play. Simon Brett has interwoven the Bunbury script with the original in a deliciously witty manner achieving a thoroughly masterful play within a play.

The production is set in the present day in George (Nigel Anthony) and Lavinia’s (Sian Phillips) sitting room, inspirationally designed by William Dudley who used an Arts and Crafts Movement inspired theme beautifully, taking this modern production subtlety back to the time the play was first written and performed.

By using the amateur dramatic company The Bunbury Players - who are all middle aged Wilde enthusiasts - most of the characters are much older than than they are supposed to be in The Importance of Being Earnest, but their enthusiasm for Wilde means they can continue performing their much loved roles for as long as they like. Having no youngsters in the group also means they have no reason not to!

We are transformed into the three acts of Wilde’s play by our imagination, the before mentioned sitting room becomes Algernon Moncrieff’s (Nigel Havers) Flat in Half Moon Street then The Garden at the Manor House and lastly The Drawing Room at the Manor House. The Bunbury Players become the familiar characters from ‘Earnest that we all know and love, slipping effortlessly between characters as final tweaks and tears are sewn and ironed out. Occasionally using the audience as a stooge, making us feel we are very much included in this final dress rehearsal before opening night! I particularly enjoyed the audience anticipation of and reaction to Wilde’s oh so famous quotes on delivery.

Sparkling performances from the star studded cast including Martin Jarvis as John Worthing, Nigel Havers, Rosalind Ayres, Christine Kavanagh, Sian Phillips and Carmen du Sautoy means the West End really has arrived in York this week.

This production is a stunning take on an old favourite, a treat not to missed……whatever your age!

Grand Opera House York until Saturday 21 November.

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