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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Monday, November 01, 2010

The Importance of Being Earnest, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

The Importance of Being Earnest

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
4 out of 5

It's not every day you get to see a new Oscar Wilde comedy. You will be familiar, of course, with The Importance of Being Earnest – handbags, epigrams and all – but not quite as it is seen here in Mark Thomson's polished production. I'm referring not only to the lines that seem as if they could have been written this week: when Jack Worthing says he is a Liberal Unionist and Lady Bracknell replies, "Oh, they count as Tories," it gets one of the biggest laughs of the evening.

But more than that, I'm referring to Thomson's decision to return to the four-act draft of the play Wilde wrote before actor-manager George Alexander requested the three-act version we know today. Three months after the first night, Wilde was imprisoned for homosexuality and never revised his original. Thomson has done the job for him and merged the two versions.

The most obvious addition is a scene in which a solicitor, Mr Gribsby, arrives at the manor house to reclaim an unpaid restaurant bill from Algernon, who is masquerading as Ernest Worthing. Threatened with jail in Holloway, he counters: "I really am not going to be imprisoned in the suburbs for having dined in the West End."

The novelty of such material gives renewed sparkle to the more familiar one-liners, not least when delivered with the imperious precision of Alexandra Mathie's Lady Bracknell and the coquettish subversion of Melody Grove's Gwendolyn. Kirsty Mackay loses laughs as Cecily by appearing permanently bewildered by her own dialogue, while Ben Deery gives little sense of Jack's tearaway side. They do, however, make lively sparring partners for Will Featherstone's Algernon in an intelligent, good-looking and funny staging.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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