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Theatre Review – The Importance of Being Earnest

As part of my annual subscription to my local theatre I went on a date with my husband to see a production of The Importance of Being Earnest this week by the State Theatre Company of South Australia. I laughed many times in delight of the wit, irreverence and biting insights of the brilliant dialogue written by Oscar Wilde. Some similar themes of young men taking a dangerously blase attitude to the lives and reputations of others are shared with The Picture of Dorian Gray but in this play the tone is light and the Machiavellian aspects are absent, making the play unreservedly enjoyable, unlike Dorian Gray! It is a play about many themes including identity, lust, control, gender, class, choices, repercussions, and hypocrisy. For a summary of the play you can look here. Obviously I’m going to need to read more Wilde now! The Director, Geordie Brookman captures well here some of the mastery of the play:

Oscar Wilde was a remarkably prescient human. Part of the reason his beautifully ridiculous play remains an enduring challenge for artists and a delight for audiences is because he manages to aim all his satirical and absurdist powers at a core group of innate human flaws while retaining a unique warmth.

The actors all performed very well and while I haven’t seen any other productions to compare it with I was convinced by every actor. The cast features experienced Australian stage actress Nancye Hayes as Lady Bracknell and she performed very well, clearly relishing the role and being selected to deliver Bracknell’s famous lines with clarity and aplomb. The actor whose voice I most enjoyed listening to due to her advanced ability to modulate her tone and pitch to introduce humour to the performance is Anna Steen and I was not surprised to discover that she has performed radio dramas and narrated many novels.

The sets were cleverly designed to convey the three settings of two drawing rooms and one garden. The set designer made great use of a large circuitous curtain track that allowed the stage to be concealed and then framed by the different curtains for the 3 different sets. The costumes were gorgeous and lavishly made. I pondered what will happen to the costumes after the play has finished?

Example of gorgeous costumes and clever set design using interesting curtains

Example of gorgeous costumes and clever set design using interesting curtains

Here are a few quotes that I particularly enjoyed and I’m copying from another post:

Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.

Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.

And some more that I copied from here:

We live, I regret to say, in an age of surfaces

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train

If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.

Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that.

To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.

Long engagements give people the opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage, which is never advisable.

That’s probably more quotes than anyone wants to read but I need to give just one more that made my husband and me, with our low sugar diets, chuckle:

Cecily: Sugar?

Gwendolen: No, thank you. Sugar is not fashionable any more.

After the show the cast returned to the stage for a Question and Answer session. The majority of the questions were asked by school students and their teachers. I was impressed by the level of maturity and interest shown by the students and the insights revealed by their questions. The cast were good natured and tried to give full and informative answers. It amazed me to learn that the cast had only 4 weeks of rehearsals in which time they:

  • had intensive elocution lessons, from accent coach Simon Stollery, to maintain different British accents according to the class status of the characters,
  • learnt how to stage the play so as to preserve sight lines,
  • the female characters learnt how to breathe shallowly and speak using catch breaths while wearing corsets,
  • read a lot of background information about the period when the play is set and about Wilde himself,
  • developed stage rapport between the characters, and
  • practiced acting the play together.

After all of that intensive learning the play showed for only 6 weeks, 3 weeks in Adelaide and then 3 weeks touring Australia! I marvelled that such a professional production can be staged with so little time to prepare and that all of that effort results in only 6 weeks of performances. I also wondered whether the cast have started applying for their next roles and what it’s like to leave home and family to tour a show like that with a tight-knit cast.

The State Theatre Company of SA is justifiably celebrating after the 3 week season of The Importance of Being Earnest, in Adelaide which closed Saturday 16 August, broke the Company’s box office record, taking over $424,000 and becoming the highest grossing production in its history. The season included a number of sold-out performances, with two extra performances being added to cope with public demand and in total the production played to more than 10,000 people.

Other reviews

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/theatre/oscar-wildes-genius-endures-in-this-new-state-theatre-company-production-20140820-1063b5.html

http://dailyreview.crikey.com.au/the-importance-of-being-earnest-review-dunstan-playhouse-adelaide/

http://emmabecciu.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/aestheticism-and-the-importance-of-being-earnest-a-trivial-post-for-serious-people/

http://crystaljhoffman.wordpress.com/academic-writing/anarchy-and-individualism-in-%E2%80%9Cthe-importance-of-being-earnest%E2%80%9D/

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2 comments on “Theatre Review – The Importance of Being Earnest

  1. Pingback: Bush Walk – Tidbinbilla Visitor’s Centre to Camel’s Hump | strivetoengage

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