Talkswindon Archive - 2005 to 2010

Coffee Talk & What's On => What's On ? => Topic started by: Geoff Reid on June 01, 2007, 04:06:19 pm

Title: The Importance of Being Earnest
Post by: Geoff Reid on June 01, 2007, 04:06:19 pm
Saturday the 2nd of June 2007

Old Town Theatre Company

To avoid family duties, bachelor Algernon Moncrieff has invented a sick friend who frequently calls him away. Jack Worthing has invented a wicked brother called Earnest.

When Algernon poses as Earnest, confusion takes a hold and it takes the discovery of an old handbag before Jack and Algernon can discover the truth behind their own deceit.

Tickets are £6 consession £4

There's a few tickets left I understand, go get 'em!

This is Oscar Wilde at his best... a real treat  :)


The Arts Centre
Devizes Road
Old Town

Tel: 01793 614837

Box Office Opening Times

Day    Opening Times
Monday to Friday    12 noon-5pm
Saturday    10am-1pm
Bank Holidays    Closed
Title: Re: The Importance of Being Earnest
Post by: tig on June 02, 2007, 10:26:01 pm
just got back from seeing this performance and what a great performance it was  :) and  a great theatre as well, i think i shall be a regular at their performances  O0
Title: The Importance of Being Earnest - Old Town Theatre Company
Post by: Geoff Reid on June 03, 2007, 12:20:46 am
After seeing the Welsh National Opera's 'Carmen' the other evening I wasn't sure about spending a 2nd night in a theatre in one week....

...but I'm very glad I did, and I'm still laughing as I type  ;D

Oscar Wilde’s rich portrayals of the Victorian Era are as captivating today as they must have been in the late 19th century. Oscar wrote and produced 9 plays including 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and just one novel....that being 'The Portrait of Dorian Gray which he completed in 1891, just 9 years before he died. (I suspect these days that the story of Dorian Gray is better known by its partial inclusion in the recent film, 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen').

At the time Oscar was producing 'Earnest', he was both emotionally and sexually involved with Lord Alfred Douglas, son of the Marquess of Queensberry.  On the opening night of 'Earnest', the Marquess attempted to enter the theatre on the play's opening night to publicly expose Oscar Wilde's homosexuality, and presumably indulge in some 'Queensbury rules' fisticuffs....but Wilde had been warned, the Marquess was refused a ticket and Oscar didn't get duffed up, at least not that time....

I'm happy to report that there was no such controversy outside the Arts Centre in Devises road on Saturday night and, outside at least, it was drama free and I was able to attend the Arts Centre for the first time since moving to Swindon a couple of years ago.

What a grand little theatre it is. You can keep the Wyvern and the Hexagon, I've found a new favourite that's intimate, comfy and remarkably well sorted for a 212 seat venue.

The Old Town Theatre Company ( (OTTC) were an unknown quantity to me prior to this evening, but a brief chat with one of their charming members, (I didn't think to ask her name, sorry), revealed that the OTTC usually put on four shows a year and a quick perusal of the OTTC website reveals a host of other interesting facts about the being that they don't use a prompt!, and actors are advised to 'Learn your lines!'.

The OTTC's program, (free), promised " A modern look to a classic romantic comedy", and the stage set confirmed their promise, a pair of modern sofas, modern bookcases and two very modern 8 foot high light boxes...(which I quite liked the look of) did indeed make for a modern look.... which set me slightly on edge if truth be told.....I wasn't convinced this would work for me, could 'Earnest' be modernised successfully?, I had my doubts.

Here's the thing....and it's a big thing when it happens in a small theatre with an even smaller cast of amateur players performing such a well known classic..... worked brilliantly!.

Quote from: Plot Summary
Algernon, a wealthy young Londoner, pretends to have a friend named Bunbury who lives in the country and frequently is in ill health. Whenever Algernon wants to avoid an unwelcome social obligation, or just get away for the weekend, he makes an ostensible visit to his "sick friend." In this way Algernon can feign piety and dedication, while having the perfect excuse to get out of town, avoiding his responsibilities. He calls this practice "Bunburying."

Within seconds of Algernon Moncrieff, (Luke Mooney), getting his opening lines out, it was obvious this was going to be a performance worth paying attention to.  If you've seen Rupert Everetts' portrayal of Algernon, Lukes was just as entertaining and demands at least as much repect when you consider Algernons lines are long, stuffed full of Wildes wordy wit and have to be delivered on stage, in one go, without the possibility of a director shouting 'Cut!' and a second take being filmed..... 

Algernons long suffering manservant 'Lane', (Duncan McDougal), minces on stage with the grace of a 6 foot rugby playing transvestite, which I took to be the director, (Tanya Barker), recognising, and paying homage to Oscar Wildes homosexuality: This is what I think, but I may be completely wrong...I'm open to correction, but even if I am wrong, my interpretation seems oddly appropriate  :).

Quote from: Plot Summary
Algernon's real-life best friend lives in the country but makes frequent visits to London. This friend's name is Ernest...or so Algernon thinks. When Ernest leaves his silver cigarette case at Algernon's rooms he finds an inscription in it that claims that it is "From little Cecily with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack". This forces Ernest to eventually disclose that his visits to the city are also examples of "Bunburying," much to Algernon's delight. Jack's description of Cecily appeals to Algernon who resolves to meet her and Algernon soon forms the idea of visiting Jacks house in the country, (while Jack is in London), and pretending that to be Jacks mysterious brother "Ernest."

Paul Felix hugely enjoyed playing 'Earnest', (a.k.a Jack Worthing), abd did so with gusto. Paul and Luke kept the comic timing of Wildes script completley on pace, and rattled off Wildes intricately crafted writing without a hiccup... no easy task, even if they made it look so.

Quote from: Plot Summary
In the country, "Ernest" goes by his real name, Jack Worthing, and pretends that he has a wastrel brother named Ernest, who lives in London. When honest Jack comes to the city, he assumes the name, and behaviour, of the profligate Ernest. In the country Jack assumes a more serious attitude for the benefit of Cecily, who is his ward.

The fearsome Lady Bracknell arrives at Algernons rooms, (Jane Dale), with the intelligent-but-ditzy Gwendolen Fairfax in tow, (Maria Bowler). Gwendolen, it seems, has a love-fixation on the name of Earnest, and as 'Earnest' is really 'Jack' we know there's going to be a problem....

Quote from: Plot Summary
Jack himself wishes to marry Gwendolen, who is Algernon's cousin, but runs into a few problems. First, Gwendolen seems to love him only because she believes his name is Ernest, which she thinks is the most beautiful name in the world. Second, Gwendolen's mother is the terrifying Lady Bracknell.

Maria Bowlers perfectly-pitched portrayal of Gwendolen Fairfax was as sweet as a Harrods bon-bon.... and in complete contrast to the acid tongued , and utterly fearsome Lady Bracknell, (Jane Dale), whose voice could cut glass at fifty feet and when, (much later in the play), Lady Bracknell said:

    "The two weak points in our age are its want of principle and its want of profile. The chin a little higher, dear. Style largely depends on the way the chin is worn. They are worn very high, just at present"

Several ladies in the audience unconsciously sat up straighter and did indeed raise their chins!.

...but back in Algernons rooms Lady Bracknell learns that 'Earnest' and Gwendolen wish to marry, and begins to ask the question that 'society' deem important.....but not all the answers are to her liking:

Quote from: Plot Summary
Lady Bracknell is horrified when she learns that Jack was adopted as a toddler after being discovered in a handbag at a railway station, specifically the cloakroom of the 'Brighton line'. In her opinion it is absolutely below the standards of her daughter to "marry into a cloakroom and form an alliance with a parcel", as she puts it.

Some important background Trivia:

At the time the play was written Victoria Station in London was actually two adjacent terminal stations sharing the same name. To the east was the terminal of the decidedly ramshackle London, Chatham and Dover Railway and to the west, the much more fashionable London, Brighton and South Coast Railway—the Brighton Line.

Although the two stations shared a dividing wall, there was no interconnection: it was necessary to walk out into the street to pass from one station to the other. Jack explains that he was found in a handbag in the cloakroom at Victoria Station and tries to mitigate the circumstance by assuring Lady Bracknell that it was the more socially acceptable "Brighton line."

Quote from: Plot Summary
Jack decides to give up his Bunburying, and to do this he must announce the tragic death of Ernest. He travels home from London, meets Dr Chasuble and Miss Prism (Cecilys governess), and announces that Earnest is dead, in Paris, from a severe chill[/i]

Dr Canon Chasuble, (Michael Carpenter), had me giggling from the off. He reminded me of Stanley Baxters 'Toothy Vicar' character and he added yet more colour to an already rich tapestry. Dr Chasubles love for Miss Prism, (Susan Carr), came over as the barely-contained cauldron of passion that Wilde intended it to be and when they strolled towards the chapel, (up and out through the central aisle of the theatre), you could be forgiven for thinking they really were going for 'Tea and Tiffin'.

Quote from: Plot Summary
Jack doesn't know that Algernon has already arrived at Jacks country house and inroduced himself to Cecily Cardew, (Melanie Bowler). [/i]

Hehehehee.... as Jack is doing his best to be a grief stricken, the entire audience is giggling.

Quote from: Plot Summary
Gwendolen arrives, having decided to pay Jack an unexpected visit. Gwendolen is shown into the garden, where Cecily orders tea and attempts to play hostess. Cecily has no idea how Gwendolen figures into Jack’s life, and Gwendolen, for her part, has no idea who Cecily is. Gwendolen initially thinks Cecily is a visitor to the Manor House and is disconcerted to learn that Cecily is “Mr. Worthing’s ward.” She notes that Ernest has never mentioned having a ward, and Cecily explains that it is not Ernest Worthing who is her guardian but his brother Jack and, in fact, that she is engaged to be married to Ernest Worthing. Gwendolen points out that this is impossible as she herself is engaged to Ernest Worthing. The tea party degenerates into a war of manners.

The scene in the garden between Gwendolen and Cecily is my favourite, two women absolutely furious with, and jealous of each other, yet remaining  completely polite as only the Victorians could. This must be a difficult scene to learn, it's fast, it's furious and it's really, really funny, and I'd bet Maria and Melanie Bowler had a lot of fun rehearsing it.

Quote from: Plot Summary
Jack and Algernon arrive toward the climax of this confrontation, each having separately made arrangements with Dr. Chasuble to be christened Ernest later that day. Each of the young ladies points out that the other has been deceived: Cecily informs Gwendolen that her fiancé is really named Jack and Gwendolen informs Cecily that hers is really called Algernon. The two women demand to know where Jack’s brother Ernest is, since both of them are engaged to be married to him. Jack is forced to admit that he has no brother and that Ernest is a complete fiction. Both women are shocked and furious, and they retire to the house arm in arm.

In summary, this was a really good night out and my earlier doubts about modernising 'Earnest' were dispelled. Tanya Barker has, in my own (inexpert) opinion has managed to make 'Earnest' both up to date and completely timeless. As Tanya says in the program....

Quote from: Tanya Barker
" Although Wilde originally set his masterpiece in the late nineteenth century, the dynamics of the relationships, the follies of the young men about town, the hearts and desires of of young girls are still as evident today as they ever were...."

.... and she's completely right.  Tanya set herself the challenge of bringing the story up to date and showing how the themes of love and family are eternal.

She, and the players of the OTTC not only rose to the challenge, but went beyond it, and as I sat in M7 watching them do it, I wondered what Oscar would have said, had he been there to see an amateur group stage his most popular play......and one of his quotes occurred to me immediately.

Quote from: Oscar Wilde
Genius is born, not paid

I would agree with him  :)

The Cast

in order of appearance

Algernon Moncrieff  - Luke Mooney

Lane  -  Duncan McDougal

John Worthing  -  Paul Felix

Lady Bracknell  -  Jane Dale

Gwendolen Fairfax  -  Maria Bowler

Cecily Cardew  -  Melanie Bowler

Miss Prism  -  Susan Carr

Dr Canon Chasuble  -  Michael Carpenter

Merriman  -  Duncan McDougal

Directed By Tanya Barker

Title: Re: The Importance of Being Earnest
Post by: xo___Kristen on June 05, 2007, 01:41:36 pm
my Dad was in this! He played Lane and Merriman...I thought he was really good, considering it was his acting debut! I'm so glad I managed to get down from Newcastle to see it! What did anyone else think?
Title: Re: The Importance of Being Earnest
Post by: Geoff Reid on June 06, 2007, 12:13:25 am

Kristen,  he was great!, I was wondering whether he'll consider 'butlering' at private dinner parties from time to time?  :)
Title: Re: The Importance of Being Earnest
Post by: xo___Kristen on June 07, 2007, 02:51:39 pm
haha no...he's not like that in real life...the complete opposit, in fact! it was so weird to sit at the front of the stage and watch my own dad acting like he swung the other way...bit backwards like...but i think he made it convincing =]
Title: Re: The Importance of Being Earnest
Post by: Geoff Reid on June 07, 2010, 03:15:25 pm

Title: Re: The Importance of Being Earnest
Post by: Tea Boy on June 07, 2010, 07:22:14 pm
'a Hand bag?'  ;D surely one of the best lines to  deliver in any play
Title: Re: Imp of Bng Ernst...about reviewing the Arts and Swindonians' creativity
Post by: poemogram on June 08, 2010, 07:56:55 am

Brilliant review Geoff - a new strand to your career ? - arts reviewer ?

Sounds like the play did what it said on the tin - played with the issues about being earnest.

Hello Jane Dale - those were the Labour is your child - not too earnest I hope.

Perhaps Talkswindon you would be up for, if we were brave enough, to review/comment on a Bluegate Poets publication - (  - Swindon's finest of course

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