The Importance of Being Earnest

Jennifer Porter

Citizen Theatre reveals great depth of talent in their production of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.
The Importance of Being Earnest

Image: supplied

The ballroom of Como Historic House and Gardens is the setting for Citizen Theatre’s production of Oscar Wilde’s comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest. First performed in 1895, the humour and sentiment in this delightful play resonates almost as if it were written in the present day with the benefit of hindsight. Wilde’s incisive and playful parody of the polite conventions of Victorian society hits home in the most enjoyable and satisfying way

The play centres on the efforts of the two protagonists – John Worthing (Rory Godbold) and Algernon Moncrieff (Nelson Gardner) – to each maintain the existence of fictitious characters, created to dodge tiresome social obligations.

Nelson Gardner (Beauty and the Beast, The Producers) is outstanding as the foppish, self-involved Moncrieff. His comic timing is immaculate and is reminiscent of a young Hugh Laurie. Most impressive – and at times, disquieting –is his ability to project long lines of dialogue with a full mouth of cucumber sandwich without incident.

The entire cast are difficult to fault. Lauren McKenna as Gwendolen Fairfax is exquisite, and Hannah Fredericksen (Cecily Cardew) is hilarious and perfectly cast. The experience of Jackie Rees (Lady Bracknell) and Nick Backstrom gives a solid baseline to what is already a strong cast. Jackie Rees is captivating in the superb costumes created by Marc McIntyre, and holds the audience with calm assurance.

Rory Godbold (Horrible Histories – Awful Egyptians) is a wonderful foil to Gardner and performed admirably in a heavy twill three-piece suit in what was a very hot first act. Catherine Glavicic as Miss Prism is beautifully cast and gives an assured performance.

The addition of live music playing original compositions adds depth to the experience. The Wilde Trio, comprises musical director, Patrick Paevere, on piano, Hannah Dallas on violin, and Emeric Sands on cello. Unfortunately the musicians, particularly Paevere, seemed to have an off night on this particular occasion with the performance becoming a bit ragged in the latter acts.

The lighting, too, was a little distracting at times, occasionally flickering, and their reflection in long mirrors facing the audience detracted from an otherwise authentic and evocative setting.

Nonetheless, director and co-producer Jayde Kirchert, Carina Waye and all involved should be proud of such a high calibre and thoroughly enjoyable production. Citizen Theatre clearly demonstrates a great depth of talent.

Rating: 3.5 out of  5

Importance of Being Earnest
Como Historic House and Gardens, South Yarra

22 January - 1 February, 2015


What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Jennifer Porter is a Melbourne-based writer and reviewer. She is currently working on her first manuscript, a work of fiction set in the inner suburbs of Melbourne.