Written in the town, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is held dear to the heart in Worthing.
So, any production of the play needs to meet high expectations in the town, and the run at the Connaught Theatre this week does just that.
Middle Ground Theatre Company brings some well-known faces from television to the Worthing theatre’s stage, along with a stunning set that met enthusiastic applause on the opening night yesterday (Tuesday).
At 49, Tom Butcher, who played PC Loxton in The Bill, is a long way off Jack Worthing’s age of 34 but he did an admirable job and made a convincing pair alongside Corrine Wicks from Emmerdale as Miss Fairfax.
Wilde’s high-society farce pokes fun at Victorian convention and there are so many funny lines that still draw a laugh to this day. Among the most well known is, obviously, “a handbag!”, pronounced by Lady Bracknell as she learns of Mr Worthing’s roots. Instead of going big on the line, Diane Fletcher, as the indomitable aunt, instead went small, whispering it as Mr Worthing repeated “a handbag”. And it worked.
It fell to Sarah Thomas, who played Glenda in Last of the Summer Wine for 25 years, to fill Margaret Rutherford’s shoes as Miss Prism. It’s no mean task but Sarah was perfect and raised many a smile in her antics alongside David Gooderson as the Rev Canon Chasuble.
It’s a long night, with three acts, two intervals and what seemed like long scene changes, but it was well received and an opportunity not to be missed.
The Importance of Being Earnest opened last night (Tuesday, November 13) and runs until Saturday, November 17, with performances at 7.30pm daily and matinées today (Wednesday) at 2pm and Saturday at 2.30pm.
By Elaine Hammond