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Review of The Importance Of Being Earnest performed by The Masque Theatre at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

It is still a relatively rare event that I venture into the theatre environment knowing the play that I am about to see. However last evening for my latest trip to the wonderfully cute playhouse, Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest was one of those rare occasions. The latest Masque production, directed by Robert Kendall with a lively flair on the compact stage was once again going to provide a hugely enjoyable evening.

The Importance Of Being Earnest is an endlessly funny play of confusion, social commentary and farce, revolving around fake relations and false names which needs seeing rather than explaining.

Our opening characters are Algernon Moncrieff (Robin Armstrong) and his manservant Lane (a suitably droll Craig Macpherson). They comfortably set the scene of a typical upper class environment, with Robin a gloriously precise deliverer of his lines, eater of muffins and cucumber sandwiches. He also has a particularly perfect timing for the most rude and comical lines, oozing every effect from Wilde's witty dialogue. For much of the play he has the most perfect sparring partner in John Worthing, played by Josh Redding. Without any question the performance of the show, and easily for me one of the best single ones I have seen from Masque. He looks the part, sounds the part and facial expressions at times are simply side splitting brilliant. A professional standard performance if ever I have seen one in an amateur show, and one assuredly to watch in the future.

Holly Lowe, straight back from a wonderful Masque debut in Shaxpeare's Box is again quite brilliant. Bringing a sweet, yet devilishly cunning attitude to Gwendolen Fairfax. She is one of those actors that as an audience member, you frequently cannot take you eyes of as she just exudes fun. I actually hope soon to see what she can do with a more unlikable character.

Completing a trio of spectacular quality new young blood to Masque is Jade Wright as Cecily Cardew. Early on uncannily similar to Holly, she becomes much more confident as she begins sparring off to Holly's character. Just like Robin and Josh, these two are at their best when working together. Sparking off one another with glee.

For myself slightly less successful is the characterisation of Lady Bracknell by Jan Stoppani. There is a feel of slight hesitation in the performance (which could well be blamed on opening night) and I really didn't feel the playing was brusque enough. This is perhaps more a personal preference of the playing and may admittedly be confused by the last Lady Bracknell I saw being David Suchet. I did also have a slight reservation of the decision for the whole cast crying the classic "a handbag" line, although it did have some comic merit.

Mark Mortimer has once again created a wonderful backdrop for the play to weave is comical path out on. With the set moving smoothly from Algy's flat onto the drawing room at the Manor House via the garden. The garden in particular was wonderfully dressed with plentiful flora. On the production front, I also absolutely loved the collection of sounds as Worthing dug deep looking for a certain item. Great stuff.

So another absolutely cracking play from Masque keeping the standard very high. This is blessed with several performances of a very high standard. I am absolutely ready for the next Masque, where I understand the antics will be rather saucy. However, for now be earnest and catch this particular one while you can.

Performance reviewed: Tuesday 5th April, 2016 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton. 

The Importance Of Being Earnest is performed by the Masque Theatre and runs until Saturday 9th April, 2016 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton.

Details can be found at http://www.masquetheatre.co.uk/

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