Review Roundup: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST at Vaudeville Theatre
The Importance of Being Earnest is the last in a cycle of productions celebrating the great iconoclast, which has included all four of Wilde's major social comedies, a solo performance of De Profundis by Simon Callow, now transferring to Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a reworking of Wilde's fairy tales for children presented by Tall Stories, and a musical version of The Selfish Giant, presented in Northampton and London. These productions have been seen by over 120,000 people in the Vaudeville, and 80,000 more on cinema screens.Five-time Olivier Award nominee, Sophie Thompson, won the Olivier Award for Best Actress for Into the Woods (1999). Most recently on stage in Guys and Dolls (Chichester), she is well-known for her film roles, including: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Emma, Gosford Park and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1. Sophie has achieved the unique distinction of achieving five Olivier nominations, taking starring roles in both EastEnders (BBC) and Coronation Street (ITV), and triumphing as the winner of Celebrity Masterchef (BBC One).
Marianka Swain, BroadwayWorld: It makes for a joyfully farcical romp, but Michael Fentiman's frenzied direction is also in danger of upstaging one of theatre's all-time great comedies - a piece of such exquisite construction that it's frustrating to have flawless lines lost to people shoving bread in one another's mouths.
Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard: Revivals of Oscar Wilde's most famous comedy aren't exactly rare. But while it's often casually dismissed as an old warhorse or frivolous crowd-pleaser, there's a finely tuned understanding here of manners, morals and marriage, and director Michael Fentiman's at times racy interpretation suggests the anarchy seething beneath Wilde's polished witticisms.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: This is one of those occasions when, in the words of Oscar Wilde's Gwendolen, it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one's mind: it becomes a pleasure. While many members of the first-night audience were in hysterics, I found Michael Fentiman's production of this comic masterpiece inexpressibly coarse and vulgar.
Paul Taylor, The Independent: Seriously, does anybody need The Importance "decoding" in this heavy-handed, pseudo-radical way? The cast perform the play with a rampant energy that builds up its own giddy appeal. But there's barely a shred of subtlety in all the cartoonish excess.
Holly Williams, Time Out: Few plays seem less likely candidates for a radical queer rewrite than 'The Importance of Being Earnest', the latest of Oscar Wilde's works to be exhumed by Dominic Dromgoole's Classic Spring company. Unless you're determinedly reading in biographical knowledge of Wilde, this effervescent romantic comedy doesn't much suggest simmering forbidden love. I'm all for mining a subtext, but director Michael Fentiman's approach rubbles the structure of an exquisitely formed play.
Natasha Tripney, The Stage: The season ends with The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde's last play and one of the most immaculately crafted stage comedies of all time. Michael Fentiman's pantomimic production does it a disservice. Denuded of nuance, it reduces every character to a caricature and pitches the comedy at such a frenzied level from the outset it allows it nowhere to go and no space to grow.