The Importance of Being Earnest – Mercury Theatre  

The Importance of being Earnest has hit the stage at the Mercury Theatre, the showtimes run from Friday 8th March – 16th March 2024. Tcikets are priced at £15.00 - £30.50. 

Originally written by Oscar Wilde, it was first performed in 1895. The play is a comedy of manners that mocks culture and manners of upper-class Victorian society showing the hypocrisy that is rife within that society. The satirical comedy is considered one of Wilde’s greatest achievements, with rememberable lines such as ‘A handbag?!’.  

The play follows two main characters Jack worthing (played by Richard David Cane) and Algernon Moncrieff (played by Mateo Oxley), it follows Jack keeping up the superficial mask of ‘Ernest’ his brother who exploits him and means he has to make frequent trips to London and leave his country estate. Similarly, Algernon has a friend called Bunbury who is often sick, meaning he must go to the countryside to meet his friend. The charade escalades when Jack decides to kill the persona that is his fake brother and Algernon decides to meet Jack’s niece who is in love with the fake persona. The play very much explores the irony behind the way upper class Victorian society behaved riddled in secrecy and mystery, when the two men could have always come clean about their travels instead of trying to hide it.  

As the title states, the play really digs into and explores the idea of ‘being earnest’ - which implies seriousness or sincerity – the play really explores this idea of morality and being earnest. Both Jack and Algernon have a lack of this ‘sincerity’ and view everything as a game. Algernon doesn't have a job and seemingly spends lot of his time singing, dancing annoying his staff, and eating cucumber sandwiches, he acts a lot like a spoilt child who is bored and doesn't know what to do with themselves. Whilst Jack isn’t as inherently as spoilt as Algernon is he is still extremely childish along with a lot of the other characters, at one point in the first act he shoved his face into the back of the sofa and stuck his bum in the air as a child who had just been told off would do cresting the sense that he hasn't really grown up from being a child. It really emphasizes this idea of Victorian upper-class society being spoilt and on a different playing field to the working class as they can play much more childishly and behave immorally and get away with it.  

I felt the set design really showed this off as well, the set for Algernon’s house was quite extravagant with tall blue walls and a vibrant feel with color that was really in your face. The set change into the garden at Jack’s country manor was slick and smooth with the actors and stagehands moving it shifting location seamlessly, the stagehands were also dressed in overalls like gardeners which added to the overall effect of this. I felt the design of the garden was done well with the back of the stage being covered in flowers, creating this sense of enormity and grandeur, something that is seemingly overlooked by the characters on stage as if it were nothing. I feel that the design choices for the set further this idea of class and how the upper class would act as if this enormity of roses is normal and just a passing sight for them.  

The team and the actors behind the performance did an amazing job of bringing the play to life and I would highly recommend watching the performance whilst still possible.