The star-studded cast of The Importance of Being Earnest each deliver admirable performances but, regrettably, the show never manages to soar.
Lucy Bailey's adaptation of the timeless comedy classic that is Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest adds a unique twist to the tale with the cast playing a group of amateur actors performing a dress rehearsal of the famous play.
Simon Brett's reworking of the script provides the play with some refreshingly unexpected laughs such as Nigel Havers (Algernon Moncrieff/ Dicky) strolling onto the stage in the opening act wearing a pair of flashy red Nike trainers and the ageing Martin Jarvis (John Worthing/ Tony) proudly proclaiming he is 29 years old, the same age as the character he portrays according to Wilde's original script.
Sian Phillips shines as the formidable Lady Bracknell, winning masses of laughs from the audience during her excellent rendition of the 'handbag' story.
However, this is unfortunately not enough to save the first act from dragging. Whilst Simon Brett's new take on the classic script adds some extra spice to the play, there are other gags such as Dicky's (Nigel Havers) former affairs with the female cast members, that are never developed.
In other moments, interspersed with dialogue from Oscar Wilde's script, the jokes fall flat and the actors are left to fill the awkwardly prolonged gap.
Thankfully, the second act picks up the pace as the cast relish in the genius of Oscar Wilde's wit.
The childish rivalry between Cecily (Christine Kavanagh) and Gwedolen (Carmen Du Sautoy), who each mistakenly believe they are engaged to the same Earnest, is performed to hilarious effect.
Meanwhile, Nigel Havers and Martin Jarvis delight as they quarrel over the concept of eating muffins in times of distress. Most joyfully of all, the play's hilarious conclusion in which bizarre coincidences and misunderstandings mount to reveal the truth about John Worthing's identity, does not disappoint.
While the cast perform well and the script is not without its laughs, it fails to fully embrace the brilliance that Oscar Wilde's play has to offer.
The Importance of Being Earnest is on at the Wycombe Swan in High Wycombe until Saturday, October 17. Next week The Smallest Show on Earth is a brand new musical comedy inspired by the hilarious 1950’s film starring Peter Sellers, spliced with classic songs by Irving Berlin (Blue Skies, Shakin’ the Blues Away, Steppin’ Out With My Baby), starring Liza Goddard(Bergerac) and Brian Capron (Coronation Street).