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Theatre On Screen: The Importance Of Being Earnest Review

Theatre On Screen: The Importance Of Being Earnest Review Click to enlarge

07 Jul 2016

Jess Horsley, one of our Blog Team and a member of our Bar & Café Staff, reviews the recent screening of The Importance Of Being Earnest

Jess Horsley, one of our Blog Team and a member of our Bar & Café Staff, reviews the recent screening of The Importance Of Being Earnest

The curtains opened on this renowned piece of theatre to the drawing room of a stylish London townhouse, the perfect setting for Algernon (Philip Cumbus) who clambered all over his furniture like a true pampered 19th century bachelor. Cumbus and David Killick exploited Algy and Lane’s servant-master relationship in a few exchanges resonant of Bertie and Jeeves, despite their little stage time together.

Wilde’s intention of presenting the ridiculous triviality of the upper classes in the Victorian Era was clearly achieved within the first ten minutes of the short first act, as Algernon and Mr Worthing (Michael Benz) bickered over cucumber sandwiches and a stolen cigarette case. What was different about Ross MacGibbon’s direction, however, was perhaps the self-awareness that the characters seemed to have of their own ridiculousness. As Benz remarked, “It is a very ungentlemanly thing to read a private cigarette case,” a look was shared between himself and Cumbus, making the farcical nature of the play even more hilarious for a modern audience.

And it goes without saying that David Suchet’s immense presence as Lady Bracknell dominated the first Act; despite making a surprisingly convincing aristocratic woman, he had the audience enthralled and laughing from the very moment he tiptoed on stage in his heeled boots. The way that the famous “handbag” scene was portrayed was also refreshingly different, with Suchet giving a worried glance to his own tiny handbag before laughing the line hysterically. The moment gave stark contrast to the rest of his severe scathing looks and worked beautifully.

Act Two was where the famous dramatic irony really took off, but before that I would like to give a special mention to the interactions between Miss Prism (Michele Dotrice) and Dr Chasuble (Richard O’Callaghan), who wonderfully presented the secondary love story. Once Cecily (Imogen Doel) had cunningly sent her governess and the rector off on a walk together, the audience was charmed and amused by Cecily’s recounting of her three-month engagement with Algernon, despite having only just met him, and Algy’s intensely serious reactions. Cumbus shines and delights as Algernon in a way that, despite his pomposity in the first act, made him one of the most likeable characters in the play. Also mentionable were the brilliantly-executed facial expressions during the scene between Cecily and Gwendolen (Emily Barber), which was one of the most creative portrayals of that scene I have seen.

Act Three saw the return of Lady Bracknell, who seemed to appear just when everything had just about settled down, to do her worst. Suchet again entertained with his sudden changes of mood, particularly after hearing that Cecily’s fortune was rather large: “A moment, Mr Worthing... Miss Cardew seems to me a most attractive young lady, now that I look at her.” The play ended rather succinctly, with the audience captivated until the very end, eager to hear the revelation of Mr Worthing’s real name, and the company most definitely deserving the many bows they took.

Trinity screens both pre-recorded and live theatre, opera and ballet throughout the year. For the latest listings visit


Tunbridge Wells Borough CouncilTrinity Theatre
Church Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 1JP
Registered Charity Number 1054547
Registered Company Number 3179063