I went to the press night for the new production of The Importance of Being Earnest at the Vaudeville. Now this play is one of my favourites and one I know reasonably well I’ve seen it a number of times, not least getting to play Gwendolen as part of my A-Level in theatre studies performance element. Its a text I’m familiar with and I love the wit in the text.
Most productions I have seen have been quite restrained. Clipped words with precision and everything being so very proper. But this production really reinvigorated the text for me and made the play incredibly sexy and beautifully queer. Gwendolen (PippaNixon) rubs up against the piano suggestively and Cecily (Fiona Button) is not the doe-eyed ingenue but a young lady who knows exactly what she wants.
It feels like a very modern direction, everyone is very definitely inhabiting their bodies and reacting physically. Algernon (Fehinti Balogan) is louche, decadent and intent on living for pleasure. Jack (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd)is wound so tight, clearly adoring Algernon and so frustrated with him, often in the same speech.
But I have to single out Lady Bracknell because Sophie Thompson was amazing using her incredible vocal dexterity to wring out every nuance she could from the script yet deliberately underplayed ‘a handbag?!?’ So much so I almost missed it. But that could also be said for the rest of the cast. Subtext was brought to fore, everything was enunciated and inflected so that the audience could be left in no doubt what the characters were thinking. It felt stylised but it also showcased the script so that we didn’t miss a thing and I bloody loved it.
I loved that food was important characters stress ate, fed each other often in a counter point to what people were saying.
This production shone new light on an old favourite and made it new and glorious and I would definitely want to see it again.