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The Importance of Being Earnest (tour - Colchester, Mercury Theatre)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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 It's the epitome of high comedy – and therefore fiendishly difficult to get right. Middle Ground is touring Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest in a new production both directed and designed by co-founder Michael Lunney. The acting is as naturalistic as a script plum-full of 1890s epigrams will allow with both Jack and Algy correctly played a men-about-town in the mid-30s, the costumes are very good and the three sets mirror the blend of realism and artifice.

Any actress cast as Lady Bracknell has some formidable predecessors in the part with whose echoes she must contend. Diane Fletcher, all swishing skirts and perilously-perched hat, does splendidly; she cannot bring herself to contemplate a future son-in-law whose ancestry consists of that all-important handbag, much less enunciate the word. We're all waiting to see how she will out-Evans Edith Evans, and this is a brilliant solution.

The two girls, Gwendolen and Cecily, are very well contrasted. Corrinne Wicks is indeed likely to grow into a replica of her own mother; Sapphire Elia is demure in her crisp white </i>broderie anglaise</i> dress and long flowing hair, but this kitten has very sharp claws. Their suitors are perhaps a little less at ease, though both Tom Butcher} (Jack Worthing) and [Jim Alexander (Algernon Moncrieff) suggest the boredom which underlines their escapades well.

I can believe in Sarah Thomas's Miss Prism both as a teacher and as a frustrated romantic novelist. Gerry Hinks has great fun with the two manservants, a Jeeves-like Lane and a doddering Merriman with more than a streak of malice in him. David Gooderson could probably play Chasuble in his sleep; there were occasional moments when I thought that perhaps that's just what he was doing.


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