The Mercury Theatre’s Importance of Being Earnest was both a feast for the eyes and a comic jewel due to the perfectly casted, sublimely dressed, and light on their feet ensemble.

Director Ryan McBryde’s version of the Oscar Wilde play immediately felt fresh with its exquisite set and costumes by designer Katie Lias with eye-catching retro kitten heels and pink turn-up trousers flitting around the stage.

While breath-taking scene changes, particularly the first act’s transition from the duck-egg blue panelled town house to the grand rose garden, gave some necessary pace and movement to the play which at its heart is well-off – but witty – people conversing over various teas.

Further by looking like an unrealistic, picture-perfect 1950s advert, the admittedly gorgeous country manor garden also helped suggest outside of the script that perhaps the romances, the rich people, and the neat ending were all too good to be true – an important dose of reality.  

Gazette: Spectacular - Claire Lee Shenfield as Cecily Cardew and Mateo Oxley as Algernon MoncrieffSpectacular - Claire Lee Shenfield as Cecily Cardew and Mateo Oxley as Algernon Moncrieff (Image: Pamela Raith)

The script was well-executed with punchlines, wordplay, and smart yet still overt innuendo all landing due to the very funny cast.

One character who perhaps really did just want to control others, as well as uphold the dignity of the upper class, was Lady Bracknell, a scene-stealing and extremely funny Gillian Bevan whose stern facial expressions made it clear she would be very unpleasant to deal with let alone be related to in real life.

Gazette: Snob Snob (Image: Pamela Raith)

While Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, played by Richard David-Caine and Mateo Oxley respectively, had the banter of close chummy public-school boys, dandy charm, and were lovable fools.

This adaptation’s Gwendolen Fairfax portrayed by Harries Hayes was devastatingly flirtatious, sashaying about in tight-fitting mid-century blue dresses – a woman rather than a girl – and a delight to watch in argument with Cecily, Claire Lee Shenfield, who was convincing as a melodramatic 18-year-old.

With even more well-written and well-acted side characters, as well as countless dazzling scenery and costume choices, The Importance of Being Earnest deserves to be the toast of the town today.

The show runs until Saturday March 16. 

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