Last week, I went on a “free” trip to the Birmingham Rep to see ‘The Importance of being Earnest’, the fact I stress its free is because I do love a good freebie and that was one great freebie, I must admit. Although, for someone who loves to act and does quite a fair bit of drama, I don’t go to as many drama shows as most avid theater goers, as I remain broke for 3/4 of my life and that 1/4 time I am not broke, the money is spent on chicken … Kentucky Fried Chicken, Peri Peri Chicken, McChicken you name it but yes Earnest.
For those who are reading this (basically my mum and sister … hello) The importance of being Earnest is a British classic written by the fabulous Oscar Wilde. The play follows a guy named John who lives a double life, pretending to be Earnest in the City and John in the country and his friend Algernon who too leads a double life as Algernon in the city and Earnest in the country. Basically it’s hard to explain the play, so like yeah it’s about people pretending to be someone they’re not, in order to fit in with people socially opposite to them. Yep, it’s basically old school Catfish … someone call Nev and Max (if you don’t get that … leave) A very relevant issue in today’s society … I’m not going to make this post one of those ones, so don’t worry. It’s actually quite an interesting play as Oscar Wilde during the release of the play all the way back in 1895 was found leading a double life himself, having a homosexual affair with Lord Alfred Douglas and later on was arrested when his father in law accused him of being homosexual. After details of his private life were revealed during the trial, was arrested and tried for gross indecency and was sentenced to two years. The play was quickly removed from being played in theatre’s until after his death.
This was my second time watching the importance of being Earnest, watching it for the first time 3 years ago where legit it was the worst interpretation ever, as it was interpreted to be like a play within a play, where there was dress rehearsals and all types of nonsense ( 1/4 of the audience fell asleep it was that bad) so going to watch it again was quite nerve wrecking. However, in the morning we had a Theater day, where we were the only group to ask the cast and crew some questions in regards to the play, for me having that one to one chat with such talented actors and actresses like Cathy Tyson (the one in the Mona Lisa) and Fela Lufadeju. It was quite an iconic performance due to the cast being a multicultural cast, which for the importance of being earnest was never done before. Cathy was great she quickly was able to reveal her difficulties in playing such a savage character like Lady Bracknell, she was telling us how she had visited the National Gallery, watched Downton Abbey and looked at personal stories of black women during the 1900 in order to mimic their mannerisms to match that of Lady Bracknell. Cathy was also great in evoking how truly ‘vulnerable and insecure’ she felt getting the part at first. Fela also opened up to us telling us how he was laughing at his agent when he heard about the role, as Jack had never played by a black actor before and also how Earnest was such a great play to be apart as “today we are so lost in social media, it’s so easy to galvanize in wanting to be something that you are not”.
Through the play, the true feeling that the director was trying to portray was the fact “that people say and do things in order for situations to remain comfortable, they don’t truly say and do what they want in order to maintain peace” and this was done very cleverly. The set was made purely of mirrors in order to unite both art and theater together and the reflect the disoriented world we are living in, where every action can be watched so microscopically from so many different angles. Other parts of the set was very distinctive, it was like it had a Alice in Wonderland twist where every scene was a party with such vivid blues and yellows. We also had a tour in the backstage areas of the theater, looking at everything from how the theater transforms into’s plays from being pieces of wood and plastic into grande designs, we also managed to sneak into an art warehouse size room, where there was a group of artists sculpturing a ship for the theater’s next show Treasure Island, it was truly epic to see how many hours and how much talent is needed to create such shows. A truly unforgettable tour as we literally witnessed everything from the music to the wig room to the chill room (so many cakes and donuts) to even the rehearsal rooms.
Although for me, the best part about the whole show was witnessing the actor Edward Franklin playing the character of Algernon Moncrieff, a perfect character match. Edward was hysterical, with his awkward mannerisms on stage and his Benedict Cumberbatch like look truly stood out for me. He was also great because he had yellow shoes … yellow shoes so yesssss he had to be my favourite because anyone who has yellow shows is cool.
Definitely a play I will encourage people to watch as it truly does fit in with the way society is today ! so yes it is very relevant and if you watch the right interpretation of it, will remain a British classic !