Goodness gracious! It is of some coincidence that this blog begins with such a sartorially apt satirical farce. In the foyer we see dapper gentlemen don their most European-inspired garb and the ladies as handsome as their male counterparts. Mind you, this is not a common occurance at any ol’ MTC opening night. Amidst champagne and delicate cucumber sandwiches was everyone who’s anyone (sometimes with their noones,) humming about the way the theatre scene was supposed to be.
The other coincidene is that this blog begins with an end. Simon Phillips bows out from MTC after 11 years as artistic director and leaves us with quite a gem of a parting gift. Good old fashioned The Importance of Being Earnest was positively glorious to watch with original set and costume designs by Tony Tripp, borrowing from Wilde counterpart, controversial illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. The design (set realized by Richard Roberts and costumes realized by Tracy Grant Lord,) was as pristine and flamboyant as those inconceivably thin cucumber sandwiches, and the dialogue sharp as the knife used to slice them. Seeing as everyone loves quoting Wilde, I simply cannot resist, despite the fact that it is of little relevance, with some of the lines not at all alluding to myself;
Algernon: I never saw anyone take so long to dress, and with such little result.
Jack: Well, at any rate, that is better than being always over-dressed as you are.
Algernon: If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.
Patrick Brammall was charming as Algernon but lacked the foppish panache Wilde himself might have displayed. Toby Schmitz’s Jack, who pretends to be, and ultimately (spoiler alert) is revealed to be Earnest, “suits (him) perfectly” – aptly chimed by Gwendolen (music theatre starlet Christie Whelan.) The occasional appearance of Lane (Bob Hornery) to announce the entrances, set the scene and facially express distaste of the inward looking trivialities of Victorian society’s goings-about, is a welcome burst of humor thoroughly appreciated by the audience.
Did I forget to throw in that Geoffrey Rush plays Lady Bracknell? Of course, Rush delivers his character of the disagreeable aunt with absolutely delicious timing and pace with the ease that only an actor of his calibre can. After the ovation, “eminent Victorian” (tee hee) Rush salutes Simon Phillips in a bittersweet farewell bid.
For further reading on Tony Tripp’s costumes for Earnest, check out A Victorian Fashion Revival