There's always a risk in taking a classic and transposing it into a modern setting.

Will it result in jarring clashes? Will the original delights be lost in a frantic attempt to demonstrate how 'current' this new iteration has become?

Abigail Cruttenden (Lady Bracknell), Rumi Sutton (Cecily), Robin Morrissey (Jack), Parth Thakerar (Algernon), Phoebe Pryce (Gwendolen) (Picture: Johan Persson)

Director Josh Roche has avoided all the potential pitfalls in bringing The Importance of Being Earnest to the Royal Exchange resulting in a production which is a contemporary celebration of Oscar Wilde.

At its heart remain the brilliantly observed one-liners which demonstrate just how far ahead of his time Wilde was when he wrote the play in 1895.

There's savage satire, gentle fun and downright silliness which combine brilliantly to create a hugely enjoyable experience.

This is very much a production for today. Algernon and Jack would be right at home in a reality TV show such as Made in Chelsea. They have money but no real purpose in life. Instant gratification appears to be their raison d'etre.

Jack has invented a fictional brother Ernest to allow him to lead a double life; Algernon has an imaginary ailing friend Bunbury which allows him to play the field without being caught out.

The Importance of Being Earnest at the Royal Exchange (Picture: Johan Persson)

Their hedonistic lifestyles are thrown into chaos when Jack falls for Gwendolen - who believes he is Ernest - and Algie falls for Cecily while pretending to be Jack's non existent brother. Don't worry, it's not as convoluted as it seems.

As Jack, Robin Morrissey is suitably hapless, caught up in a web of confusion of his own making. Fellow Millennial Algie, Parth Thakerar, is the epitome of smooth. With his linen suit (worn without socks, of course) and need for constant snacks he appears to have it all and yet has little of real value.

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The character of Lady Bracknell looms large in any production of this play and Abigail Cruttenden's waspish interpretation is both brutal and hilarious. She spits venom and oozes condescension in equal measure.

There isn't a weak link in the cast with Phoebe Pryce's Gwendolen and Rumi Sutton's Cecily being perfectly observed - the teenage Cecily is welded to her phone throughout, the mobile replacing the diary from the original play.

The bulk of the original script remains unchanged but any tweaks that have been made slot in seemlessly. Quips about being Liberal Democrat and the actions of vegans are suitably barbed. A scene involving that must-have accessory, the expensive coffee machine, is a comic triumph and the timing of everything is spot on.


The set is a perfect parody of the Insta-friendly interiors which dominate social media. The traditional drawing room has been replaced a set which is both luxury apartment and immaculate garden. Set designer Eleanor Bull has created a surreal background which look like the Flumps on steroids (one for the kids!) and add to the idea that these characters are not quite living in the real world.

If you're familiar with The Importance of Being Earnest, this production is a welcome re-interpretation of a classic. If it's your first time, it's a current, relevant and topical examination of class, the generation gap and relationships - the perfect blend of the profound and the trivial.

Until July 20. Details from