The Importance of Being Earnest, Taunton Thespians at Cleeve Abbey and touring

OSCAR Wilde’s “trivial comedy for serious people”, The Importance of Being Earnest, might be 124 years old, but its observations on the English class system are still as true as they were then, whatever anyone might say to the contrary.

Surrounded by the warm stones of Cleeve Abbey, Taunton Thespians delighted a packed audience with a feast of comic acting, as they unfolded the familiar story of Mr Worthing (Jack in the country and Ernest in town), his chum Algernon Moncrieff  and his quest to be Ernest, their monstrous relatives and their indispensible servants.

Best known as the play in which the fearsome Lady Bracknell  utters the immortal line “a HANDBAG,” Wilde’s wit and wisdom are a constant joy, especially in the hands of such talented actors and such an inventive director as Michael Gilbert.

In this touring production, Lady Bracknell might be the Gorgon she always is, but Lorna Evans brings a new dimension. Here is a woman who has “married up”, as she mentions in Act III. She was penniless when she married Lord B, but didn’t let that put her off. She has met and fawned over the right people, but she hasn’t quite got the voice right.  You can imagine the nobility laughing at her behind her back.

maat ward, who has imp­roved every time he has performed with the Thes­pians, gives a masterful reading of the effete Algy. Egocentric, lazy and greedy, he becomes totally charming when he sees Cecily, strongly portrayed by Nicky Bassett.  Lindsey Cran is the arch Gwendolen, and she’ll keep Ben Jordan’s Jack in perfect order when they are married.

The butlers, Tim Knowles as Lane and Des Pollard as Merriman, have their unsuspecting employers just where they want them, pandering to every ridiculous whim.

Mark Dawson is a bumbling pedant of a Chasuble, and Jane Edwards, in her 50th Thespians production, creates a dotty but naughty Miss Prism.

This delightful production is the perfect way to spend an evening in the open air, with lots of laughs, elegant witty language and excellent characterisations.


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