The Importance of Being Earnest

It was such a pleasure to revisit the Oscar Wilde classic The Importance Of Being Earnest with all its memorable asides at Oxford Playhouse last night, brought gloriously to the stage by Oxford Theatre Guild in a dazzling 1920s get up compete with flapper dresses, boaters and bobs.

For an amateur theatre company such as OTG, however well established its reputation, to haul in the crowds to a massive theatre like Oxford Playhouse is still a big ask, READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR TIM EYRES HERE but it was packed to the rafters with loyal fans, Wilde fanatics and anyone keen to revisit this historic and comedic play, Wilde’s witticisms rolling continually off the tongue. “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.“

The two Earnests

And what better way to celebrate OTG’s 70 year reign than with a masterpiece of this calibre, the hilarious plot of two stifled young men, escaping under mistaken identities to pursue their new-found love interests, galloping on at a vibrant pace.

The characters scarce need introducing such is their notoriety, but for those new to the storyline, all soon became clear; the indomitable killjoy Lady Bracknell (Lucy Kilpatrick Melville) intent on controlling the younger generation, who thankfully have quite different ideas.

Lady Bracknell

What follows is a farce of epic proportions, both Lady Bracknell’s daughter Gwendoline Fairfax (Rose Macaulay) and Cecily Cardew (Matilda Morrissey), discovering they’re both engaged to the very same Earnest Worthing.

Their furious exchange over tea, insults hissed and spitted though an air or respectability was hugely enjoyable “Cecily: When I see a spade I call it a spade. Gwendolen: I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different.”

Cecily Cardew (Matilda Morrissey) and Gwendoline Fairfax (Rose Macaulay) in The Importance of Being Earnest

But of course all is not as it seems, the two ousted young men, neither of whom are actually called Earnest, emerging remarkably intact from their fraudulent misdemeanours, despite Lady Bracknell’s best, if curiously unvitriolic, efforts.

Special mention must go to the younger cast members Gwendolen, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train” and Cecily who bought a real energy to the proceedings, the excellent governess Miss Prism (Triona Adams) who also starred in OTG’s The Recruiting Officer at Trinity College this summer, and the outrageously unrepentant and flamboyant Algernon Moncreef (Billy Morton) whose fluent portrayal was impressive.

Triona Adams as Miss Prism and Ian Nutt as Dr Chasuble

A fun and amusing night out then, and another example of how important companies like OTG are to Oxford in their compelling and evident enjoyment of their craft.

But in terms of Wilde appreciation, his classic quotes are still mellifluously flitting though my brain to be taken out and enjoyed again at my own leisure. “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” Genius.

OTG’s THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST runs until Saturday 20 April. Book here