Writer: Oscar Wilde
Director: Sean Holmes
Venue: Theatre Tent
Reviewer: Kris Hallett
It might be a first. Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest has over the past few years found directors prepared to chuck concepts at it. From Martin Jarvis and Nigel Hawthorne returning to the roles thirty years on from original success, or David Suchet dragging up to play Lady Bracknell,it’s not like directors haven’t taken a chance on exploring something different with what has been described by various literary commentators ‘as the greatest comedy in the English language’. Yet Sean Holmes doesn’t bury it with concepts but instead deconstructs the piece completely.
It is Wilde’s tale told through the prism of what it means to be British, of Morrisey and of Brexit. It is a piece buzzing with leftie indignation of the way the vote has changed our country (for the worst) but, in this work in progress showing, it hasn’t fully formed its thesis. It is currently lacking in nuance and reasoned argument, more inclined to bleat the obvious and the,already old news, liberal agenda, than convince those who voted out that it may indeed have been a bad decision. Even passionate remain supporters will realise that the arguments formed from the liberal sect need to be better fought than this.
There are inspired moments in here, a Jack and Algernon discussion about what to do with an evening placed in the hands of two female Northern burka wearers, Oscar Wilde gatecrashing his own play to tell us about the lines he’s consuming and the love he is making in his Latitude tent. It is all put across by a talented six strong team of actor/musicians with Mel Giedroyc of Great British Bake Off fame having particular fun with Bracknell uttering the immortal line ‘A handbag?’ to ever increasing absurdity.
With more rigorous rehearsals Holmes may be on to something. At the moment its political points are too obvious and its key points too heavily buried. With a little more nuance, Wilde’s play; the apotheosis of a long lost England; may ring even stronger in our new political world. Finally kudos to the three audience volunteers roped in to make cucumber sandwiches for the five hundred strong crowd. Not half bad.