Review: The Importance of Being Earnest (A Musical)

Written for Time Out

‘A handbag? A handbag?’ Gyles Brandreth titters before breaking into song. Is this Oscar Wilde or Noël Coward doing a party piece impression of him? ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is given new voice in Douglas Livingstone’s musical.

‘A musical?!’, Dame Edith Evans might have exclaimed. But this diluted interpretation does suit an audience already used to giving Wilde’s witticisms and aphorisms a life of their own.

Livingstone’s book and Adam McGuinness and Zia Moranne’s score are classy and character-led. Flora Spencer-Longhurst sparkles in Cecily’s joyful Charleston number ‘Wicked!’ and Miss Prism (Susie Blake) and Dr Chasuble (Edward Petherbridge) cause much hilarity with their reverent courting in ‘It all Began in a Garden’.

Samal Blak’s design, in which gardens grow out of suitcases, is imaginative and stylish and Brandreth makes a regal Lady Bracknell. It’s not exactly ‘My Fair Lady’. But even Wilde would have admired the new-found silliness
in this light-hearted musical.

Runs until 31st December