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Saturday, 12 June 2010

Theatre - The Importance of Being Earnest - Library Theatre

Star rating – 9/10

So it’s farewell to the Library Theatre after 50 years of entertaining the good folk of Manchester. And they have chosen to bow out with the same play that was the first one to be produced here, in this iconic building that is small but perfectly formed, in the basement of the splendid Central Reference Library.

And what a great choice of play, with every line of Oscar Wilde’s theatre classic rippling with comedy, irony and biting social satire. It is still something of a miracle to me that one man could write such a gem of a play, alongside the beautifully moving classic children’s tale ‘The Selfish Giant’, and such a stirring and disturbing novel as ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ from the same pen. What a dazzlingly clever man.

And Chris Honer’s production does full justice both to the occasion, and to the brilliant play. Russell Dixon is hilarious as the pantomime dame style Lady Bracknell, with so many classic lines it is difficult to pick out favourites. He chooses to down play the classic ‘hand bag’ line, which is my only nit pick of the night, but delivers all the rest to bring the house down. Her /his reaction to Earnest’s revelations about the nature of his being found at Victoria Station (on the Brighton line) are as funny as anything I have ever heard. One favourite of mine is: "I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance. Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.” This typifies Wilde’s commentary on social class which is still as relevant today as when he wrote the play. Certainly the line about a Liberal-Unionist being the same as a Tory caused great audience mirth and took on a renewed significance in these coalition government times.

And Natalie Grady's determined and feisty heroine Gwendolen Fairfax is also worth special mention, hilarious as she reveals how much in love she has been with Earnest from just hearing his name. Meeting him in the flesh confirms her affection. The two hander between Gwendolen and the pretty young ward Cecily is a classic scene.

Even the more minor players deliver killer lines here, such as the interchange between the straight laced governess Miss Prism, and the slightly amorous and in demand, for baptism services anyway with so much name changing on the cards, vicar Rev Chasuble.

So it’s a sad farewell to the Library Theatre, at least in its current home. I have many, many fond memories of this little theatre, from countless magic of children’s’ pantomimes over the past twenty years, to the surreal experience of seeing the powerful Greek tragedy ‘Medea’ here on the same day as the 9/11 attacks. Hopefully the four years during which the company will have a peripatetic existence between The Lowry and various other venues, will pass quickly, and they will be safely and elegantly rehoused in the refurbished nearby Theatre Royal. For now it’s thanks for the memories, as they bow out in terrific and outrageous comic style. I think Wilde would have approved.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Pleased you liked it. We're continuing after Central Library and will be going to the Lowry 3 times a year to stage out main house shows, so lots to look forward to!