REVIEW: The Importance of Being Earnest, Darlington Civic Theatre.Print Page
By Philip Buckingham, NCTJ Journalism trainee
A PACKED house was treated to a refreshingly new take on a timeless classic at the Darlington Civic Theatre on Tuesday evening.
An all-star cast, led by Martin Jarvis and Nigel Havers as men-about-town Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing, opened their five-night run with an energetic performance of Simon Brett’s adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest, which is fresh from an acclaimed season at the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End.
The play centres around the final dress rehearsal of an amateur dramatic society’s latest performance of Earnest, a work they have performed so often over the years that their own personalities have begun to resemble those of the roles they are playing – Sian Phillips’s ‘Lavinia’, for instance, is every bit as formidable as the character of Lady Bracknell who she is portraying in the production.
The novel framework not only allows the actors to acknowledge that they are perhaps a bit long in the tooth to be playing characters still in the first flush of youth, it also provides ample opportunity for additional laughs to be mined from the haphazard nature of an amateur production – a running gag about disappearing cucumber sandwiches caused the audience particular amusement.
The performances themselves are of course far from amateurish, and it is immensely enjoyable simply seeing the cast having so much fun onstage – Jarvis, in particular, relishes his role as ‘Tony’, the luvvy director of the Bunbury Players – and when the performance of Earnest gets underway after the opening scene, Wilde’s classic play remains as engaging and amusing as ever in their hands.
“We’re doing this because we love Earnest” ‘Tony’ reminds the ‘cast’ before they begin their performance, a line that clearly rings true about the performers themselves, and with productions like this one, that love is likely to endure for a while yet.