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REVIEW: The Importance of Being Earnest at the Theatre Royal Windsor

The Importance of Being Earnest is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until Saturday, May 5

Siobhan Newman

Siobhan Newman

REVIEW: The Importance of Being Earnest at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Credit: The Other Richard

Oscar Wilde’s most famous play was written in 1896 and it’s still as stylish (and immensely over-educated) as Algernon Moncrieff himself.

Mr Jack Worthing, known in town as Ernest, wants to marry Algy’s cousin Gwendolen but her mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell, forbids the match because of the mystery surrounding the young man’s parentage.

Jack was found in a handbag at Victoria Station and adopted by a gentleman who left him a considerable estate in the country – and the care of his granddaughter Cecily.

Jack has a fictitious brother, Ernest, who gets into the most dreadful scrapes and provides him with an excuse for frequent trips to London. His 18-year-old ward is a little too interested in Ernest so Jack plans to kill him off when convenient.

But when Algy learns the whereabouts of Jack’s country house, he decides to visit, posing as Ernest, so he can meet the beautiful Cecily.

Add prim governess Miss Prism, the bookish vicar Dr Chasuble , arrivals, confusions and surprises and it’s all more sensational than Gwendolen’s diary.

Studded with witty one-liners, The Importance of Being Earnest is a brilliant gem of a play and the Original Theatre Company’s  production is a joy. Director Alastair Whatley has fun with the staging (Algy and Jack have a bunfight, literally) but the pace and physicality never get in the way of the sparkling dialogue.

The scene where Gwendolen (West End star Kerry Ellis) and Cecily (Louise Coulthard) meet is beautifully executed and the Windsor audience was suitably tickled.

Susan Penhaligon is simply splendid as the hapless Miss Prism and all the cast prove they have the brio to carry off passion, insouciance and earnestness as required.

Algernon (Thomas Howes, of Downton Abbey fame) and Jack (Peter Sandys-Clarke) have a nice repartee and Gwen Taylor (Coronation Street, Duty Free) as Lady Bracknell is somehow  very likable, even in full, terrifying sail.

It looks lovely too with a lovely Art Nouveau curved wooden frame by Gabriella Slade, who designed the costumes as well, forming the backdrop.

Heaps of style and satire with absolutely no importance – superb. ­

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