Monday 19 March 2018

Review: Wilde's witty masterpiece delights

Theatre: The Importance of Being Earnest, Gate Theatre, Dublin

Des Keogh
Des Keogh

Katy Hayes

This classic production of Wilde's masterpiece delivers every laugh on an elegant silver tea service.

Director Patrick Mason eschews any major political angle in post-marriage referendum Ireland. He simply works the text to create comedy from the silly business of upper- class life and Wilde's wonderful witticisms.

However, the references to the death of an invented brother in Paris are given emphasis by the ghostly image of Wilde's face on the back wall. A subtle gesture, but effective. Mason isn't going to let the audience go home scot-free without some small contemplation of the author's tragic fate.

Francis O'Connor's super set is like a conjuror's box of tricks. Panels open to reveal a man's dressing table and a drinks cabinet. When the action moves to the country we get a mountainside and a rural church steeple. Des Keogh as ancient retainer Merriman becomes an extension of the set with his brilliant physical comedy. A boys' model train creates a charming vehicle for location change.

Marty Rea does a fantastic job as Jack Worthing, creating knockabout humour including some of the broadest reactions you will ever see on stage, but somehow still manages to give the part psychological realism.

Lisa Dwyer Hogg is an utterly charming Gwendolen, while showing a worrying likeness to her domineering mother. She gives life to the line: "all women become like their mothers, that is their tragedy."

Deirdre Donnelly, armed with some of the finest comic lines ever written, commands the stage as Lady Bracknell.

Marion O'Dwyer turns Miss Prism into an intelligent schemer, with one eye on the main chance; a marriage prospect with Canon Chasuble, played with delightful relish by Mark Lambert.

Finally the play belongs to the women. They are educated, vocal and dominant. They attend university lectures and write novels and diaries, while the men create fantasies and fight over muffins. It is 1895 and you can smell the suffragettes are on their way.

Irish Independent

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