International Concert Attractions & Duncan C Weldon & Paul Elliott for Triumph Proscenium Productions present
starring Patricia Routledge
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Patricia Routledge is starring in Oscar Wilde's most famous comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest. It is her first visit to Australia. In 1999, The Importance of Being Earnest, a Chichester Festival Theatre Production, played in the West End’s Theatre Royal, Haymarket, for 17 weeks and attracted standing-room only audiences for the entire run. The critics and public alike raved about the transformation of Hyacinth Bucket to the formidable Lady Bracknell, whose presence dominated the stage.
The Importance of Being Earnest produced in Australia and New Zealand by Andrew Kay of International Concert Attractions in association with West End producer, Duncan C Weldon.
"This is Oscar Wilde's most celebrated play," said Andrew Kay. "I have seen it many times, but when I saw this production with Patricia Routledge in the role of Lady Bracknell, I knew I had to secure it for Australia and New Zealand," he said.
"When Patricia walks on stage for the first time, the audience is completely in her hands, and she keeps them there. It is a great experience, and it is easy to see why she was voted Favourite Actress at the BBC's 60th anniversary awards."
The season opens in Perth on July 29, Melbourne August 24, Auckland September 27 and Sydney on October 18. After the tour closes in Sydney on November 19, it will re-open in London's West End for a return season.
"We have cast six Australian actors in various roles. Four of these actors will join with the English members of the cast in the return season in London," said Andrew Kay. "We are very happy to be able to introduce London audiences to some of our finest actors, Beverley Dunn, Essie Davis, Sarah Kants and Jonathon Elsom. It is a great opportunity for them, and Director Christopher Morahan paid tribute to them when he chose them at the Australian auditions. He said 'They were born to play these roles.'"
Written by: Oscar Wilde
Director: Christopher Morahan
Designer: Peter Rice
Lighting Designer: Jamieson Lewis
Venue: Savoy Theatre
Where: West End
Date Reviewed: 25 January 2001
WOS Rating: ★★★★
Average Reader Rating: ★★★★
Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews
With Patricia Routledge starring as the imperious Lady Bracknell, this revival of The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde's greatest comedy, boasts unbeatable casting. Indeed, it’s difficult to envisage anyone else in contemporary theatre more tailored for the part. An imposing presence resplendent in royal purple – a credit to Emma Williams the costume supervisor and Sara Jane Drew the wardrobe mistress – the redoubtable Routledge dispenses her character's societal wisdom, whilst revealing Bracknell's appalling snobbery in resonant, yet quavering tones. She commands our attention throughout.
Wilde's tale of identity lost and found contains a plethora of celebrated aphorisms, caustic observations, and hilarious counter-intuitive statements. Its marvellous machinations are so familiar as to preclude recounting here.
Theo Fraser Steele's Algernon is a mischievous fellow who walks over sofas and dangles his hat in strange places, but he takes time to hit his stride and inhabit his role's rascal qualities. In John/Ernest Worthing (Alistair Petrie), Gwendolen (Essie Davies) and later with Jack's ward Cecily Cardew (Sarah Kants), we find polished portraits that shine as the production gathers apace.
In particular, the scene between Cecily and Gwendolen over tea and bread and butter crackles with the energy sometimes missing earlier in the proceedings.
Christopher Morahan's direction is more steady than zestful, but he does produce several lovely moments, including Cecily and Gwendolen's co-ordinated step-hopping into the house as they indignantly take their leave of the dissembling Algy and Ernest.
Designer Peter Rice conveys Algy's London flat in light wood and a library of faux books while filling Jack's Hertfordshire garden with wicker chairs and white lattice work.
The pink and pistachio colours of the morning room in the final scene are eclipsed by the flaming red and orange of Lady Bracknell's outfit. Throughout the glorious finale, Routledge takes centre stage to unveil the denouement that tells us all we desire about the importance of being E(a)rnest.
Paul B Cohen