Writer: Oscar Wilde
Reviewer: Sophia Moss
“Are you all following the show?” Kudzanayi Chiwawa asks at the beginning of Act Three. It’s a fair question. Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest, which features two men who have each made up a fake person as an excuse to regularly get away from their real lives and the increasingly ridiculous situations they find themselves, is confusing at the best of times. When all nine characters are played by two women, the confusion should, in theory, get worse, but both Ayesha Casely-Hayford and Chiwawa do such a good job of their many characters that it’s easy to keep up.
The costumes and stage area are simple but get the job done. Both performers are dressed in white shirts, black braces, black trousers and bare feet, and they show their character changes by removing the braces, changing their body language or, at one point, putting on an impressive Irish accent.
The staging area is sparse: a shawl is used as a curtain; the backdrop is a stage poster on one side and a picture of the British countryside on the other, hung onto two black poles at the beginning of the show with a countryside soundscape being supplied by the audience “baaaing” and making surprisingly convincing bird noises. At one point, Casely-Hayford turns the front row into her roses, which she mimes watering throughout the show.
It’s not the most elaborate set design, but this is part of the show’s charm. The audience are included from the very beginning, as the music, props and other cast members, and it builds a fun, interactive vibe which carries on throughout the night. Both performers are self-deprecating about the shows small cast, often attributing it to ‘budget cuts’ and making a joke out of running around the stage to carry on a conversation with themselves, but this is exactly what makes the show so good.
Oscar Wilde’s brilliant script is brought to life in the hour and a half run-time. His brilliant lines, combined with Casely-Hayford and Chiwawa’s hilarious re-imagining of the characters, has us laughing so much our faces hurt. It is impossible to be bored at any moment during the show. Casely-Hayford and Chiwawa play off each other well and, in addition to playing four and five characters respectively, they are very much themselves and inject their personalities into the evening so we get to know them as much as any of the characters they bring to life.
If you are looking for a serious performance with old white actors and specially painted stage sets. this isn’t the show for you. If, however, you are in the mood for a hilarious evening which Oscar Wilde himself would have enjoyed, head over to the Tara-Theatre.
Runs until 16March 2019 | Image: Contributed