Review: Loft does justice to Wilde's genius in delightful version of sparkling comedy

Bella Stock as Cecily Cardew and Sean Glock as Algernon Montcrieff.
Bella Stock as Cecily Cardew and Sean Glock as Algernon Montcrieff.

Nick Le Mesurier reviews The Importance of Being Earnest at the Loft Theatre, Leamington

Oscar Wilde’s perennial comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest, gets the Loft’s new season off to a good start. It’s a sparkling comedy of seemingly effortless one-liners.

The plot, which I’m sure most of you know, is deceptively simple. Jack Worthing (Joe Riley) and Algernon Moncreiff (Sean Glock) are two well connected young men about town. Whenever they wish to avoid a boring social event they use what Algernon calls a Bunbury, a fictional relative who is usually in poor health or in trouble and simply must be visited immediately. In Jack’s case his name is Earnest, a dissolute younger brother, whom he pretends to be when in town. Jack / Earnest is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax (Hannah Burt), but is opposed by her fiercely patrician mother Lady Bracknell (Julie Godfrey), who also happens to be Algernon’s aunt. Algernon decides to play a trick on Jack by pretending to actually be his Bunbury brother, whereupon he falls in love with Jack’s ward, Cecily (Bella Stock). Cue much confusion and comic soul-searching, a neat plot twist and eventually a happy ending.

The play’s familiarity can also be its downfall, and I confess a little trepidation when I agreed to review it. But I was delighted throughout. It’s tempting to try to out-Wilde Wilde, but David Fletcher’s direction pitches it nicely between high farce and schmaltzy rom-com. Sean Glock has Algernon’s louche manner off to a tee, and Mark Crossley delivers a wonderful over-the-top performance as the genuinely earnest Canon Chasuble. But the real star is the language: Wilde’s genius is not exaggerated, and this production delivers it warmly.

* The play runs until Saturday May 6. Call 0844 493 4938 to book.