The Importance of Being Earnest | QTCIf you’re thinking of going to see the Queensland Theatre Company’s production of Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Being Earnest for a night of comforting, familiar theatre be warned…Earnest has been given a makeover. Director Michael Gow has transformed the play completely and while this may not please everyone, a fresh approach to Wilde’s plays has been long overdue.

But don’t worry, nobody performs naked or, even worse, in jeans and Wilde’s glorious words remain untrammeled. All that is required of the audience to enjoy this wonderful new production of Earnest is a little bit of insight and a healthy sense of the ridiculous.

Paul Bishop is Algernon Moncrieff, a flâneur with an anthropologist's understanding of the English upper crust. It’s a pleasure to watch Bishop who seems totally at home with Wilde’s barb laden script.

I wasn’t so enamored of Bryan Proberts as John Worthing. Proberts, usually so good in comedic roles, seems to rush through his lines, perhaps with the intention of conveying a fashionable ennui. Sometimes it works but overall it doesn’t sit well with the character.

Tim Dashwood makes the most of his small roles as servants Merriman and Lane and Leo Wockner brings a rascally twinkle to Reverend Chasuble.

This not being Earnest as we know it, the performances from the female cast members are unconventional to say the least. As John’s sweetheart Gwendolen, the very primped and preened Georgina Symes is occasionally alarming, occasionally scene stealing and not at all what you might expect. Francesca Savige is an utter delight as soufflé-esque Cecily and Penny Everingham sexes up her Miss Prism.

Though she may not look like a Victorian society doyen Jane Harders’ performance as Lady Bracknell is closest in spirit to Wilde’s vision of the absurdities and machinations of the English upper class. She may look like the proprietor of a Parisian brothel (as painted by Toulouse Lautrec) but she’s just as forceful and scheming a Lady Bracknell as you could expect.

The costumes and design by the talented Robert Kemp are as frivolous and absurd as the material.  Kemp has a sharp eye for ridiculous excesses of the upper classes and this is reflected in the costuming, a magpie’s treasure trove plucked from everywhere except the Victorian era. I particularly loved John’s outrageous mourning attire and Algernon’s ostentatious snakeskin pants. It’s the teaming of Kemp and Michael Gow that really makes this production fly.

It could have been just another “old reliable” trotted out to please audiences in search of the familiar. Instead The Importance of Being Earnest is a surprising, oddball delight and provides a great opportunity to reacquaint audiences with the play while avoiding all the usual clichéd ferns and frills.

Astro turf in the parlour…Oscar Wilde would have approved.

Queensland Theatre Company presents
The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde

Venue: Playhouse, QPAC
Dates: 16 Oct/Closes: 1 Nov
Times: Tue 6.30pm/Wed – Sat 7.30pm
Matinees: Sat 2.00pm/Wed 1.00pm (no Wed matinee in Opening Week)
Tickets: Single Tickets: $39-$59/Under 27: $27
Bookings: QTIX 136 246

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