Rife with the daring wit and perceptive observation of society, gender dynamics, and identity, that is now considered to be quintessential of Wilde’s work. A humorous, yet equally astute, and sharp revival of a play that is arguably considered overly-produced, with energising dynamism.
Firstly, there is no ambiguity regarding the place of the actors and the audience – the fourth wall is suitably maintained – yet the almost Shakespearean quality of acting and mirthful spirit of the performers seems to allow for complete immersion within every aphorism that flies from their mouths; making the experience of witnessing this production not merely an observation of a collective group of actors, but an escape into the scintillating perspective and daringly droll world of Wilde.
Physically, most of the actors embody their respective characters with seemingly easily-attainable excellence. Backway and Jessup are impressively skilful in each gesture and movement, embodying precisely the fierce quick-witted physicality and attitudes of both Algernon and John respectively. Their mutual magnetism is established from the very start, and remains equally as alluring in the final scene.
Emma Denly plays Gwendolen with tremendous charm, and is consistently, and humorously, impassioned – making it very much impossible not to feel deeply enamoured of her immaculate characterisation. However, Robyn Cara’s portrayal of Cecily pales in comparison and, though certainly of an adequate standard, does not seem to fulfil the vibrant potential of the character.
Maclean’s interpretation of the ominous matriarch, Lady Bracknell, is formidably sinister – presented with such careful control and flawless superciliousness. Each syllable is pronounced with sharp diction; each movement is consumed by an almost satirical conceit. Though, nevertheless, her subtly, and occasional shines of humour are profoundly effective.
Atmospherically, the set, sound, and lighting are ingeniously suited to the performance, enhancing the environment with an aristocratic elegance and beauty, with subdued and comforting tones that allow not only for the actor to remain the primary focus of the performance, but to have their performances enhanced by the compelling replication of the grandeur of aristocratic Victorian England.
Ultimately, Richard Fitch’s production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ frankly fulfils, if not supersedes, his already established acclaim through his directorial involvement in ‘Funny Girl’, ‘Urinetown’ and ‘Buried Child’, with an almost immaculate cast, and indisputable vigour from the moment the curtain rises, to the second it falls.