Have you ever wanted to be in an Oscar Wilde play? Even if it's just for a few minutes? With The Importance of Being... Earnest? you actually could have that very opportunity. The concept was very simple - an amateur dramatics society had the opportunity to put on Oscar Wilde's classic The Importance of Being Earnest. There was only one slight issue...the actor playing Earnest Worthing had not showed up! This was where the audience participation came in, so that the show could carry on as best as possible - especially as they were also doing a live television broadcast to widen their audience.
comedy that was fast paced, highly energetic, yet also had the perfect amount of stillness
Under covid regulations at the time I write this review, there was a huge risk that this kind of show could go wrong with social distancing and so on. However, this was not the case with theatre company Say It Again, Sorry? They not only maintained social distancing, but looked after each audience member as they were brought up to the stage to interact with the cast via a clever fusion of improvisation, the original Wilde script and a hilarious insertion of a Harry Potter script. There was no awkwardness at all, just a sense of throwing themselves into the material that was thrown at them and it didn't matter whether you knew the original play or not. The day I saw it, this show had the perfect mixture of those who knew the play and those who were new to it. All thoroughly enjoyed the experience, even if the long suffering director Simon (played brilliantly by Tom Cray) felt like everything was falling apart.
What really made this show so different was the fact that every single actor played their role straight in order to create comedy that was fast paced, highly energetic, yet also had the perfect amount of stillness to enable Wilde's aristocratic sattire to come to life. It felt reminiscent of the current popular farce The Play Wot Went Wrong, only without the stage falling apart or the dangerous stunts. Each performance was so strong and believable as they tried keeping everything together in an authentic Victorian living room setting, with a modern printer that was also on show (and being used during the performance), but special mentions have to go to Susan Hoffman for her foreboading Lady Bracknell and her highly strung diva character who refused to work with amateurs, as well as Rhys Tees who gave a highly entertaining and well rounded performance as Lane, Miss Prism and the long suffering actor Graham.
The Importance of Being... Earnest? was an entertaining, humourous comedy that lifted everyone's spirits and we hope to see more of them in the future.