The Importance of Being Earnest at Curve Theatre Leicester online
Presented as a partly cool and contemporary, partly traditional version of Oscar Wilde’s witty and hilarious comedy of manners, The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Nikolai Foster, is available online as an archived recording by the Curve Theatre in Leicester.
A huge stage is adorned with pink balloons as the play opens to dancers in a music hall-type setting with a smoke-and-mirrors ambiance and slightly amateurish piano music. Enter the effete and blatantly snobbish characters, all of whom become more human and interesting as the play progresses. Ernest (Fela Lufadeju) and Algernon (Edward Franklin) are two wealthy, spoiled chums who like to enjoy themselves while maintaining an aura of respectability. They do so by creating alter egos. Ernest, the fun-loving Londoner, is really Jack Worthing, a more serious country-dweller with a young ward. Algernon evades social occasions with stuffy relatives via an imaginary friend who frequently becomes ill and requires his company. The latter also assumes the identity of Ernest to seduce Jack’s ward, Cecily Cardew (Sharan Phull), creating a complex and uproarious dilemma.
Ernest is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax (Martha Mackintosh), Algernon’s cousin, and the two become engaged, but her mother Lady Bracknell (Cathy Tyson) forbids the marriage, as Ernest’s social origins consist of having been found in a bag at Victoria Station. Both Gwendolen and Cecily are powerfully drawn to the name Ernest, prompting the two friends to try to change their own by baptism. The denouement of this captivating farce contains ingenious twists and turns, and it becomes clear that the name Ernest has much importance on many levels.
An expansive set emphasises the characters’ grand lifestyles, while its expressionist style, with red baubles and mirrors, make it seem otherworldly. Scene changes are smoothly enacted, camouflaged by scintillating light arrangements. Portraying posh but quirky and human 19th-century types faultlessly while exhibiting skilful comic timing, the actors are excellent. Their voices are strongly projected, but – no doubt because they are in a large space – via the recording they are only moderately clear. As the production is filmed from above and behind, the characters are not seen in close-up. Regardless, the brilliance of the piece and charisma of the performers supersede any minor viewing drawbacks.
An entertaining, charming and extremely funny show, The Importance of Being Earnest can be found on the Curve Theatre Leicester website.
The Importance of Being Earnest is available to stream from Curve Theatre Leicester’s website from 3rd April 2020. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.