Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest” has been given a clever twist in this production, making it a “play within a play”. The action takes place in the beautiful Arts & Crafts sitting room of George and Lavinia Spelman, as the Bunbury Company of Players run through the dress rehearsal for their amateur production of “The Importance of Being Earnest”.
This has the effect of meaning that the professional actors are playing amateurs who are putting on a play. For example, the wonderful Sian Phillips is playing Lavinia Spelman, who is playing Lady Bracknell. It may all sound a bit confusing, but the additional material written by Simon Brett makes it all very clear, and adds to the humour of the original play.
Of course, the fact that they are playing amateurs gives the professional actors here, all of whom are very experienced stage and screen performers, the chance to over-act a bit, which Nigel Havers and Martin Jarvis in particular (as Dicky/Algernon Moncrieff and Tony/John Worthing) seem to take great delight in. The Bunbury Players have been performing “The Importance” for many years, which may explain why the dashing young men about town are being played by men of somewhat more senior years!
The entire company in this production were superb, and it was a great show from start to finish. The set by William Dudley was beautiful and finely detailed as a late Victorian Arts & Crafts room opening into a garden, and the lighting by Oliver Fenwick was excellent. The costumes, in particular Lady Bracknell’s outfits, were lovely as well.
Aside from what was happening on stage, the programme for this show is also a nice touch, with biographies of the members of the Bunbury Players, and adverts for businesses in their home town of Morton St Cuthbert.
This was just a great evening’s entertainment, with very skilled actors who were obviously enjoying the performance as much as the audience was. It continues at the King’s Theatre until Saturday 14th November, and will be at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow from 24th to 28th November.
Review by Lisa Sibbald