The Importance of Being Earnest


Lyric Theatre, Belfast

Graham McLaren’s coruscating new production for the Lyric comes dripping with irony and self-awareness, as he and designer Robin Peoples go for broke on an eye-wateringly handsome visual presentation.

The opening moments set the scene for the entirety of what is to follow. A jaunty pop music soundtrack – beginning with John Paul Young’s Love is in the Air and sashaying into Stevie Wonder, Millie Small, The Temptations – serenades Niall Cusack’s perfectly judged entrance into a fashionably tasteful, high-ceilinged room, where he meticulously prepares for the arrival of his master, the louche young aristocrat Algernon Moncrieff (Aaron McCusker), and the indomitable Lady Bracknell (Paddy Scully).

The menu is thus laid out for our perusal, with Scully gorgeously costumed, rouged and wigged and McCusker setting an easy, silver-tongued comic tone, into which chimes Patrick Moy’s genial, anxious-to-please Jack Worthing, Melody Grove’s breathy, sexually eager Gwendolen and Ailish Symons’s quick-witted, coquettish Cecily.

The whole silly plotline, revolving around a female obsession with men named Ernest, ducks and dives between misinterpretation and misunderstanding, with this quartet of characters effortlessly forming interlocking ties of rivalry, love and friendship. Patrick Jenkins and Richard Orr add the common touch as, respectively, the pedantic Canon Chasuble and an unusually skittish Miss Prism (Orr’s mobile face misses no opportunity for easy laughs).

The whole thing is carried off with terrific brio, cross-dressing and all, and has not a serious bone in its body.

Runs until July 7th