ernie couple

The Importance of Being Earnest?

Derby Theatre


This show has been garnering scintillating reviews ever since its Edinburgh Fringe debut , plaudits and subsequent tour, which continues.

I had been expecting improvised chaos. Instead we were treated to a meticulously crafted comedy which was skillfully presented as improvised chaos in the manner which Morecambe and Wise perfected half a century ago.

The Say it again sorry? company only use the Oscar Wilde original play as a very rough hook on which to hang proceedings. When the actor playing Earnest fails to appear an audience member is dragooned to replace him - the centrepiece for the evening. Jake is apparently a teacher whose monosyllabic answers to prompts suggest that his lessons are very short and whose idea of a good time is to take his girlfriend to Nandos.

Before long Holly is also prised from the audience, but not before successfully auditioning for her part by reciting the song “I’m a Believer” in a German accent.

What follows is a carefully concocted alchemy of pantomime, slapstick, farce and improvisation. Inevitably Director Simon is frequently needed on stage to sort things out. Played by Josh Haberfield whose appearance and laconic delivery is eerily close to that of Jimmy Carr, director Simon invariably makes things worse and is the dramatic pivot around which all else revolves.

He has a sidekick, stagehand Josh, whose ineptitude and doe eyes are equally eerily close to Manuel in Fawlty Towers. Playing an idiot is no easy task, and Ben Man does so to great comic effect.

Judith Amsenga has great fun with the part of Lady Bracknell, one of the great female parts in British plays . Similarly Trynity Silk excels as Gwendolen becoming increasingly drunk as the story unfolds.

Physical comedy abounds as a jacket is not hung up on the correct peg and alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks swap places. Trynity Silk’s costuming is lush, her single set design utilitarian, functional and eye-catching.

This is unquestionably one of the most original and funny comic stage shows I have ever seen. The closing standing ovation demonstrated that I was not alone, as those who were lured out of Derby’s penumbral byways on an unseasonably wet Tuesday night roared, laughed and cheered.

“Earnest” plays again tonight (29th May”) then continues on nationwide tour appearing at Mansfield, Bury St Edmunds, Horsham, Stevenage, Lichfield, Aberdeen. Then on to Edinburgh, and I am told London. Don’t miss it.

Gary Longden


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