New production of The Importance of Being Earnest enchants Cambridge audience
Oscar Wilde's witty and delightful farce runs at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday
Deliciously decadent, this welcome revival of a comedy classic from The Original Theatre Company stars Gwen Taylor (Coronation Street) as the formidable Lady Bracknell, Thomas Howes (Downton Abbey) as Algernon, West End star Peter Sandys-Clarke as Jack and Susan Penhaligon (Upstairs Downstairs) as the hapless Miss Prism.
The set is wonderfully lavish and the furntiture depicts the location where each of the three acts takes place. Act 1 is at Algernon’s flat in London, Act 2 takes place the following day in the greenhouse at The Manor, Jack’s country house in Hertfordshire, and Act 3 is later that day in the library at The Manor.
Almost unrecognisable as doomed footman William Mason in Downton Abbey – both physically and vocally – Thomas Howes shines as louche, food-guzzling layabout, Algernon Moncrieff, while Peter Sandys-Ckarke is ideally cast as the more thoughtful and cautious Jack Worthing.
The story plays out beautifully and as more characters are added to the mix, the plot becomes ever more convoluted. Jack wishes to marry Algernon’s cousin, the beautiful Gwendolen, but first he must convince her mother, the fearsome Lady Bracknell, of the respectability of his parents and past.
This is not as easy as it sounds, however, as Jack started life abandoned in a handbag at Victoria station.
Each of the actors plays their role superbly and, along with Howes, Louise Coulthard as Cecily Cardew and Gwen Taylor as the larger than life Lady Bracknell – bringing to mind Bertie Wooster’s fearsome aunts in PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories – particularly succeed in making their exaggerated characters laugh-out loud funny.
A splendid evening’s entertainment at the Arts Theatre, oh and great costumes too.
The Importance of Being Earnest is on at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, April 14.
The performance starts at 7.45pm every day and there are matinees on Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm.