The Importance of Being Earnest

Castle Gardens, Norwich

A distinct elegance pervaded Castle Gardens on Saturday, as theatre lovers savoured a free open-air performance of Oscar Wilde's classic society comedy.

Part of the Open Stages programme, the play was given a pre-war revamp by acclaimed company Heartbreak Productions, who transposed its setting to the dark days of 1939.

The plot, a frivolous confection of mistaken identity centred on the exploits of upper-class playboy Jack Worthy and chum Algernon, is slight, ridiculous and essentially unimportant. Provided you can accept the notion of infants mistakenly deposited in handbags, it is simply necessary to luxuriate in the steady stream of Wilde's pithy witticisms.

The cast was without exception excellent, and more than capable of competing with Saturday night noise.

With his amused sneer, Harry Smith's Algernon was appropriately rakish, while Laurence Aldridge gave his Jack the air of a schoolboy caught in a particularly embarrassing scrape. Rosalind Davidson performed Lady Bracknell as if she were the strict headmistress of a girls' school.

While the pre-war setting neither perceptibly enhanced nor diminished the play, Wilde's lines sounded fresher than ever, the cast fully realising their timeless appeal.

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This was first-rate theatre, and another resounding success for the Open Stages initiative.

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