Thursday, May 6

The Importance of Being Earnest – Lawrence Batley Theatre & The Dukes

Oscar Wilde’s wonderfully adroit and sharply observed comedy involving romantic mischief and the pursuit of love is reimagined and adapted by writer Yasmeen Khan.

This digital co-production between the Laurence Batley Theatre Huddersfield and The Dukes Lancaster uses some film and video techniques throughout and the results are both slick and well-paced.

Using the basic narrative of the original play, Khan, cleverly transfers the action of the story to modern day. Largely set in the world of the sitcom and social media, we follow the romantic misadventures of struggling actor Jamil/Earnest played by Gurjett Singh, Algy played by Tom Dixon, Gul played by Nikki Patel and Safina played by Zoe Iqbal.

I must say that all four actors give tremendously energetic performances throughout and Khan’s cheerful adaptation includes nods to grand farce and romcom.

The production also features Mina Anwar (who also directs) as the ferocious Ms Begum, Melanie Marshall as the almost mystical Ms Prism, Harriet Thorpe (stealing each scene she’s in) as Jamil’s over the top agent, Hugh Dennis as a farting tv presenter (don’t ask!!) and the wonderful Sindhu Vee as his unfortunate co-presenter.

It’s also fabulous to see Divina De Campo in an all too brief early appearance – I just wish she had been given more screen time- she is fierce! The excellent and very funny Paul Chahidi also made a very brief appearance as an obsessive (and slightly creepy) film director.

Under Anwar’s meticulous direction, the story moves at a great pace (there’s never a wasted or dull moment) and it allows the four leads to fully explore their characters triumphs and foibles. In particular Singh and Iqbal as Jamil and Safina give stand out performances in an already excellent cast.

I did think the set design was a little bit unimaginative which was a shame but overall it was just great fun to see Wilde’s story brought up to date with the right kind of respect for the original.

The Importance of Being Earnest plays online from 19th April – 4th May at www.importanceofbeingearnest.com

Reviewer: Kiefer Williams

Reviewed: 19th April 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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