The Importance of Being Earnest @ Harold Pinter Theatre

Oscar Wilde is one of my favourite writers. His writing is witty, entertaining and immensely intelligent, which is why he is one of the greatest writers of all time. When the awesome officialtheatre.com gave me a chance to watch The Importance of Being Earnest at the Harold Pinter Theatre, I just couldn’t say no.

Photo Tristram Kenton

Wilde’s well known play opens with the charming Algernon Moncrieff (played charismatically by Nigel Havers), and friend John Worthing (Martin Jarvis) admitting to each other that they both make up personas in order to woo young women. When Worthing falls for Gwendolen Fairfax (Cherie Lunghi) and Moncrieff for Cecily Cardew (Christine Kavanagh), the two men soon realise the young women are actually interested in their alter egos. Cue hilarious mistaken identity antics and  ridiculous puns.

Photo: Tristram Kenton

What makes this production different is Simon Brett’s rewriting. Wilde’s play is framed within a modern setting, where The Bunbury Company of Players are rehearsing their amateur production of the play. I understand Brett’s line of thought here – the actors are older than the characters, so for it to make sense that they are playing younger people, the play would need some sort of reason for it. Except this is not necessary at all. The Importance of Being Earnest  is a great piece of writing, so whether the actors are old or young, the humour and comedy is in the text, it just needs good direction and execution. No need to faff around trying to change it up.

Photo: Nigel Norrington

I don’t want to be completely negative about the show though, because it did have great elements. For one, the actors were brilliant, which is no surprise. For me, the amazing Siân Phillips (who plays Lady Bracknell) was the star of the show. Her sophistication just oozes on stage, even as Lady Bracknell. She was actually so enjoyable to watch. I loved her balance of sternness, arrogance  and comedy, it was just perfect.

Photo: Donald Cooper

The production is not for everyone, that’s for sure. The framing device was unnecessary in my opinion. The text doesn’t need to be rewritten, it is already a great piece of art. The actors are brilliant, and Lucy Bailey is an amazing director (her Shakespeare stuff is flawless), but for some reason the combination here just hasn’t worked. If you do go to see it, you’ll enjoy the acting, but that’s just about it.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels @ Savoy Theatre

The classic story of the likeable con artist is always going to be a winner. With a combination of great songs, an elegant set design, and classy costumes, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is definitely no exception.

The play is set on the French Riviera. Lawrence Jameson (played by the magnificent Robert Lindsay) is a smooth and sophisticated con man who woos rich, single ladies by posing as a prince, and takes all their wealth. He meets Freddy Benson (the very funny Rufus Hound), a small-time crook, who doesn’t aim as high as Lawrence, but instead is happy to bag a free lunch. Freddy wants to be as talented as Lawrence, and so asks to be educated by him. But when the delightful Christine Colgate (portrayed beautifully by Katherine Kingsley) arrives at the Riviera, the two men become rivals as they battle to win her affection.

Photo: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels UK

The performers were all brilliant. Lindsay oozes with charisma and looks extremely suave dancing on stage as Lawrence. Hound is equally as good as the young con man. I must admit that I was quite surprised at how enjoyable I found his performance. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is hilarious as a stand up, but I just wasn’t sure how the singing and dancing would go down. Turns out, it goes down really well! His comedy and likeability makes his portrayal of Freddy entertaining to watch. He’s brilliant in the “Ruprecht” scene, where he helps Lawrence avoid an unwanted marriage.

Photo: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels UK

David Yazbek has created a set of  extremely catchy songs, although my favourite has to be the Oklahoma number. Jolene Oakes (Lizzie Connolly) is wooed by Lawrence, and so wants to marry him and move to Oklahoma. This routine aims to adjust him to the Southern way of life. The song is filled with amazing dancing cowboys and cowgirls, and Connolly is brilliant as Jolene. Her over-exaggerated accent is hilarious, and that combined with her comedic talents had me cracking up throughout this sequence.

Photo: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels UK

There is also a sub-plot to this story, involving the chief of police John Marquez (Andre Thibault) and Samanthat Bond (Muriel Eubanks), a lonely heiress who was tricked by Lawrence. I think the scene between these two characters are very necessary to the play, as they take away from the trickery of the two con men, and focus on romance. Both Thibault and Eubanks are hilarious as the two lovers, and they bring a sense of sexiness to the show. Watch out for some hot lingerie and naughty handcuffs.

I think Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is brilliant. With an amazing lead cast, and an equally talented support cast, whose ensemble work is very exciting to watch on stage, this show is definitely the best choice for a great evening out at the West End.

Want to see this show? Click here for tickets!