Friday 28 October 2016

Review: The Importance of Being Earnest

Aislinn O'Byrne plays Cecily
Aislinn O'Byrne plays Cecily

THE two boys are still gas. The two boys, would you believe, are still 'Bunburying' (or 'Earnesting' - leading double lives, basically). Yes, even after 120 years, Oscar Wilde's 'masterpiece' continues to retain most of its sparkle and ingenuity.

A meticulously-crafted exhibition of wit and deception, The Importance Of Being Earnest was way ahead of its time. The language is extraordinary, but rarely stuffy, and the plot, though somewhat convoluted, is ridiculously entertaining.

It's a love story wrapped up in a farce. Earnest is king; actors love Earnest. Earnest, however, requires a kick-ass ensemble to do it justice.

A shiny new Smock Alley display, complete with Christmas lights, Halloween costumes, artificial grass and women's frocks that hang from one corner of the ceiling (I don't get it, either), does a stand-up job. It feels a tad longer than it should, mind, but Earnest 2015 is, for the most part, a comical delight in which a pair of mates in London - a brilliant Kevin Shackleton as Algernon (he loves himself) and a solid James Murphy as Jack (likewise) - discover they've both been leading separate lives in order to escape the mundanities of everyday existence.

In the country, Jack is Jack. In the city, he is Earnest.

When Algernon (or 'Bunbury', depending on the time and place) realises this, he decides to try on the 'Earnest' hat for himself.

Both lads fall in love whilst in Earnest mode; Algernon with Cecily (a superb Aislinn O'Byrne) and Jack with Gwendolyn (Clodagh Mooney Duggan) and whaddaya know? They eventually realise the importance... etc, etc.

True, this new Earnest is, occasionally, cartoonish (we've got one guy playing 'the help' at two different households, as well as Reverend Chasuble…) and there's an awful lot of scenery-chewing going on (Valerie O'Leary's Lady Bracknell is hilarious). But at least the couples out front make for a riotous quartet. Excellent comic timing keeps this one ahead of the game.

Running until August 22 HHHII

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