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Review: The Importance of being Earnest - Malthouse Theatre

Review By Chloe Perett

Oscar Wilde's classic, The Importance of Being Earnest is about status, social-norms, family, marriage and most importantly love. It was no surprise when David Woods and Jon Haynes first brought their Ridiculusmus production to Melbourne, Malthouse Theatre in 2006 audiences fell out of their seats in laughter, cackling at every moment. Now, in 2020 the two gifted and extremely funny actors create an even bigger outrageous Victorian farce.

Wilde’s ultimate comedy about manners and love is a lot to indulge in, however Wood and Haynes seamlessly consume nine roles between the two of them by frequently walking off stage and moments later re-appear as different characters, courtesy of a dress, hat, robe or unkempt wig. On occasions they play different characters simultaneously while on stage, simply by holding onto a dress or whipping out miniature hand puppets that increase the hilarity of this play.

Woods and Haynes are marvellous and manic as they deliver this slapstick comedy at its finest. For two hours (including an interval) the audience are taken on a dessert filled platter of laughter, complimented perfectly by its stunning set design and costumes. The wild selection of tapestry rugs covering the stage can only make you feel as though it’s as manic as the piece itself. This performance surely has a very dexterous dresser behind the scenes who is at heart an integral part of the show, even though you never see her. Amongst the mayhem unfolding on stage there is a performance occurring backstage with quick costume changes and aggressive lighting and sound cues that allow Woods and Haynes to swiftly enter and exit the stage donning different characters. It’s almost like an entire orchestra is occurring back of house making the audience wish they could have a good sticky beak of what’s going on behind the scenes. A glimpse in the wings view of the silent chaos I can only assume is happening behind wallpaper floral screens.

My finest moments came when burly Woods emerges from the darkness as Lady Bracknell. It’s the moment we all wait for with bated breath and he does not disappoint.

The costumes are simply stunning with every inch of detail and aesthetically beautiful set pieces compliment the stage - a selection of high tea crumpets and cakes in disguise as tea and biscuits. There is one scene where there are six characters on stage at the same time and swapping between characters in the middle of a line and leaving the audience on the edge of their seats, waiting for Woods and Haynes next hilariously clever move.

The Importance of Being Earnest is a rich classic that is easy to enjoy, an instant hit for its long-term subscribers and theatre-goers. It’s a great piece of theatre for any student studying the piece or regular punter who needs a good mid-week giggle without having to think too hard.

The Importance of Being Earnest

The Coopers Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank

Season: 18 February – 8 March 2020

Information and Bookings:

Image Credit: Pia Johnson

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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