The West End production of this famous Oscar Wilde play has come down to Brighton. The play is now 120 years old and the director gave it a new treatment. It was a play within a play as it was put on by the Bunbury players , an am-dram group. Thus there were those mistakes and flaws that arise in any amateur theatrical.
The play laced with witty epigrams does have a serious theme indeed it is subtitled a trivial comedy for serious people. The institution of marriage is attacked as Lady Bracknell view it is only useful for its mercenary potential and Algernon and Jack are dilettantes who do not view it too seriously.
Sian Philips was a superb Lady Bracknell. This is a tough role as comparison are inevitably made with Edith Evans and her querulous uttering of “a handbag?” Sian Phillips played this cleverly by impersonating the Evans role but still putting her own gloss on it. Nigel Havers was almost type-cast as the silly toff whilst Martin Jarvis faithfully represented Jack. Cheryl Lunghi played Gwendolen . She is capable actress though chiefly known for her television work.
The Theatre Royal Brighton is an old theatre and not that comfortable on a warm evening as the ventilation is poor. I have to admit – as did my companion- to nodding off at various occasions. I recall seeing this play on my first ever date when I was 15 and this production did not excite me sufficiently given I knew the play so well and the discomfort of the theatre.