Anyone who truly knows me will tell you: I'm a HUGE David Suchet fan. I mean astronomically so. A somewhat niche hobby that I share with a select few, there isn't a Poirot I haven't seen. On the other hand, another of my loves is far more wide-spread, that of the plays of the witty and urbane Oscar Wilde. So when I saw that the two were happening in consort, I booked tickets months in advance and awaited a very special type of performance. David Suchet starring as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest? How could I resist!
What makes this production so special, you may ask? Well, it's the new 'in' thing - theatre at the cinema! Filmed live in London (in this case, at the Vaudeville Theatre), particular plays are then broadcast in Sydney's Dendy cinemas for your viewing pleasure. How inspired! So why not test these pioneering waters with a classic that's tried and true?
For anyone who has been living under a large, dull and all-encompassing rock, the plot of this farcical comedy rages on thusly: the honourable John Worthing has concocted a faux brother named Earnest in order to have an excuse to head to London and behave in a debaucherous fashion as often as he pleases. Little does he know that this faux brother will soon turn into an egregious faux pas. His chum Algernon Moncrief learns of his 'bunburying' and seeks to use it to his advantage. As hilarity ensues at John's country manor, they come to realise the true importance of being Earnest.
Yet, the truth about this production is rarely pure and never simple. In this case, it appears that the principal excellence of the play is, well, the play. With the exception of one of my true acting loves, the incomparable David Suchet, there was nothing truly new and astounding about this production of The Importance of Being Earnest. I only truly felt roused when my Lady was present. She didn't so much enter the stage, as occupy it totally. A veritable puppet master of performance, Suchet shines and entrances the audience, squeezing the sentiment out of every second.
Unfortunately, my ebullient praise ends here for much of the production. Not because I didn't enjoy it, but because it was exactly what was to be expected. The other performances were mostly strong (particularly by Emily Barber as a crisp Gwendolyn) and altogether capable, but they were not anything close to inspiring. A central part of the play, Philip Cumbus' Algernon was less than revolutionary. However, this may be due to the prowess of his predecessor, as ever since seeing the inimitable Rupert Everett in the 2002 film, no one else has cut the mustard (or the cucumber sandwiches). It is one of the great challenges of the revival of a classic - someone or something needs to lure us in. With the posters plastering the face of a rouged Suchet, it's clear what the draw is here, but that's it in terms of innovation. Luckily for this viewer, it's enough. Suchet is this production's Everett.
In my most biased opinion, David Suchet is the mother of all Bracknells. As the loquacious Algernon reminds us, 'All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his'. I already know that I am my mother through and through (for me it's no tragedy), but if I were to be resigned to become any other, I wouldn't mind this Lady Bracknell. We could all use a little more Suchet in our lives.