REVIEW: The Importance of Being Earnest @ Curve

One of the most exciting things about theatre for me is the moment when you get your first glimpse of the stage and this new world that the director, designers and technicians have painstakingly created in which to immerse actors and audience into the realm of unreality. In recent months we have seen Curve’s studio theatre transformed into a 1940s New Orleans apartment, a Flemish barn in WW1, a Russian prison and a fantasy world for Roald Dahl’s romping The Witches.  Despite all of these sets being immensely satisfying, none of them have made me openly gasp in wonder as to their inception and beauty as Isla Shaw’s completely mirrored set for Curve’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Nikolai Foster.

A proscenium arch (the first I’ve seen in a Curve studio production) contains a completely mirrored box bedecked with golden chaises to depict the sophistication of the city and bountiful blooms strung from the ceiling to represent the calm of the country. It’s the perfect space for a story obsessed with appearances and is wonderfully lit by Ben Cracknell.

Even if you’re part of the few who have never seen, heard or read The Importance of Being Earnest before then you’ll find so much of it familiar  as Earnest contains some of Oscar Wilde’s most popular and wickedly funny quotations. A razor sharp satire on society, Bachelor Jack Worthing (Fela Lufadeju) and his best mate Algernon Moncrieff (EDWARD FRANKLIN)  hope to marry society’s most eligible ladies, Gwendolen Fairfax (Martha Mackintosh) and Cecily Cardew (Sharan Phull). But the lads’ courtship of the women is far from straight forward! With double identities, plenty of ‘Bunburying’ and a number of hostile encounters with the formidable Lady Bracknell (Cathy Tyson), the pair become embroiled in a web of mistaken identities with hilarious consequences.

Franklin stalks the stage as Algernon Moncrieff (in some pretty colourful socks) and strikes the right balance between aristocratic rake and loveable rogue whilst Fela Lufadeju’s Jack Worthing’s outrage at the antics of Algie offers much merriment. Phull and Mackintosh’s portrayal of Cecily and Gwendolen’s journey from best friends to detested rivals before becoming united as wronged women, all within the space of five minutes, is wonderfully played.

BAFTA and Golden Globe nominee Cathy Tyson as the indomitable Lady Bracknell brings an appropriate air of decorum to the stage whilst Dominic Gately’s simpering Reverund Chasuble along with Angela Clerkin’s repressed and uptight Prism add yet more giddiness. Special mention goes to Darren Bennet in the dual role as servants Lane and Merriman who, with the raise of an eyebrow, perfectly timed pout or shady side-eyed glance steals the scene and the audiences applause.

The Importance of Being Earnest is another directorial delight from Nikolai Foster and runs until October 29th. To not see it would be considered the height of vulgarity so we recommend you book tickets at www.curveonline.co.uk !

Read our interview with Lady Bracknell herself, Cathy Tyson here.

Find out how Isla Shaw came up with the design for The Importance of Being Earnest here.