What’s in a name? Everything for hapless Jack, whose decadent alter ego Ernest pays him a surprise visit courtesy of his mischievous friend Algernon. Hi-jinks ensue and romance blossoms as everyone learns the importance of being earnest.
Skylight Theatre sets this much loved comedy of manners and identity confusion in the 1950s, which is a nice touch. A decade that saw the invention of the teenager and the rise of rock ‘n’ roll is a good backdrop for Oscar Wilde’s wry take on faddishness and family feuds.
Less successful is an adolescent tone which too often sees the play’s witty suggestiveness stranded in Carry On territory, obscured by leers and eye-rolling. The production’s rushed pace is another problem, with one line immediately swallowed by another. As a result, Linda Taimre’s elegantly haughty Lady Bracknell isn’t the show-stopping presence she should be.
A small stage means that there isn’t really the room for the double-takes and shocked reactions demanded by the plot’s slew of revelations. Nonetheless, the cast perform their roles with gusto. A nervy Paul Mooney and louche Phil McInnerney are enjoyably fractious as Jack and Algernon. Alice Sillett stands out for her great comic timing as a welly-clad Cecily, her head full of romance. Her clash with Katharine Kavanagh’s patronising Gwendolen over tea and cake is a delight.
This fun take on Wilde’s classic won’t set the world alight. But if you find yourself near Brighton Marina one gloomy evening this month, it may be just the ray of sunshine you need to cheer yourself up.
First published by The Argus newspaper