Although The Importance of Being Earnest at the Lyceum is a faithful and impeccably-staged production of Wilde’s classic comedy of errors, Mark Thomson has taken two original directorial decisions.
First, the piece is staged on the same set and with many of the same actors as last month’s Romeo And Juliet, allowing audiences who see both to witness the versatility of the strong and extremely watchable cast.
Second, he has introduced a fourth act into the play, usually performed as a three-act piece. Using Wilde’s original words, he expands the familiar work, and in doing so allows extra space for the dialogue and performances to sparkle. This all adds up to an evening of refreshingly fine comedy, now with more witty one-liners than ever before.
And the cast here shine just as brightly as Wilde’s witticisms. Will Featherstone and Ben Deery are enjoyable in their roles as Algernon Moncrieff and John Worthing, upper-class men of leisure with duplicitous schemes and a love of muffins. Featherstone in particular impresses, with a gloriously foppish performance which still manages to allow the audience to warm to his character’s particular charms.
But this piece belongs to the women, all of whom put in excellent turns. Kirsty Mackay as Cecily is all wide-eyed, open-mouthed wonder and innocence, whilst Alexandra Mathie bristles with a comandeering performance as the formidable gorgon herself, Lady Bracknell.
Most delightful of all is Melody Grove as Miss Gwendolen Fairfax, with an expressive and capricious performance which captures all the strong-willed determination of her character and exhibits some perfect comic timing into the bargain.
As The Importance Of Being Earnest draws towards its well-mannered and satisfyingly comic conclusion, the Lyceum have shown their skill in taking a familiar theatrical classic and adding a handbag-ful of originality to it, turning it into a unique and hugely enjoyable delight.
The Importance Of Being Earnest runs until 20 November. Further ticket information is available on the Lyceum website