I know, I know, I’ve left it to the last minute, but I really have to say how much I enjoyed The Importance of Being Earnest – still running at the Lyric Theatre – but only until Saturday.
Wilde’s play is as funny and relevant today as it was when it was first performed on St Valentine’s Day 1895.
“A trivial play for serious people” the Dublin playwright called his most popular and enduring play and with good reason. Audiences can either enjoy it as a romantic romp or look deeper at the stifling silliness of Victorian etiquette that Wilde was tearing asunder with wit and passion.
Ernest loves Gwendolyn. Cecily loves Ernest. What could possibly go wrong?
Double lives and double standards abound in this masterpiece of satirical wisdom where Jack and Algernon, two young men looking for escape from social obligations, pretend to be something that they are not… Earnest.
Niall Cusack, who plays a pair of butlers in this Graham McLaren production calls Earnest one of the
most perfect plays ever written.
“Well, it’s the most perfect play in English, perhaps. because of its format, characterisation, plot and dialogue not to mention the wit and energy and wit and irony that runs throughout the play,” says the Belfast-born actor who threw himself into acting when he first saw a play at the old, old Lyric Theatre in Derryvolgie Avenue.
Earnest was the highlight of Wilde’s career, a play that is regularly preformed al over the world, which has been made into films and, because it takes a scalpel to the absurd silliness of life, it still speaks to us today.
And although, the play is quintessentially English, it had to be written by an Irishman!
“One of the most noticeable things about the best known English comedies is that they are all written by Anglo-Irishmen – Sheridan, Congreve, Goldsmith, Wilde, Shaw – the English can’t do it themselves,” says Niall, smiling.
And the mostly Irish cast were more than capable of doing justice to Oscar and Earnest with men in women’s roles – Richard Orr as Miss Prism and Paddy Scully in the juiciest of roles, Lady Bracknell.
Aaron McCusker, from Portadown, (aka Jamie in Shameless) has taken on the extreme opposite role as the very posh Algernon and he does it with aplomb (not a word you would hear on Shameless!) as does Patrick Moy, from Dublin, who plays Jack (Ernest). Paddy Jenkins is from Belfast.
Ailish Symons who plays Cecily is from Cork while Melody Grove, from Sussex is the only English member of the cast, playing the part of Gwendolen,
(As well as the Irish actors, a young man from Derry, Robin Peoples, designed the play’s extravagant costumes, which where all made in Belfast.)
The production splendidly recreates high society’s circus tightrope that people had to negotiate with a balancing bar of etiquette, rules and manners to save them from falling into the abyss of social disgrace with Algernon as ringmaster.
It really is a laugh a minute but the play really sparkles towards the end of Act Two when Cecily and Gwendolen change from bosom buddies to mortal enemies.
A great show – but it ends this Saturday. The Lyric Box Office is 9038 1081.