So, most of us know all about Oscar Wilde?
He was that Victorian bloke who paraded round dressed like a dandy, spouted witticisms continually and got locked up for committing acts of a homosexual nature. So what has he got to offer us now and why would be tempted to spend our cash on seeing a play that’s over a hundred years old?
Nottingham Theatre has put on a dazzling new production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” which comes highly recommended. It’s a polished production of a laugh out loud comedy of manners which is at the roots of much modern satire.
Jack and Algernon are two foppish men about town who both lead double lives. No, not that. It was 1895. Poor Oscar couldn’t write about the whole gay thing without putting a few noses out of joint, so he had to just allude to ‘things’. Wilde did add in the odd veiled allusion just for the boys with gay slang words slipped in subtly and the odd sly reference to inscribed cigarette cases and railway station cloakrooms.
They’re both serial liars, making up convenient friends and relatives who act as alibis to get them out of tedious commitments. Their double lives catch up with them when they both fall in love and come face to face with the formidable and highly camp Lady Bracknell and the snobbery of London’s high society.
The play is fast paced with the quick fire quips you’d expect from Wilde. The characters are Victorian caricatures but could easily still exist in today’s society too. The shallow Gwendolen and the vain Cecily could well be mean girls man hunting in Chelsea. Lady Bracknell is a perfect reflection of the scary middle aged women who pore over The Lady and Tatler and give withering glances and staggering put downs. The two rakish young men are definitely reminiscent of some of the posh totty cads who offer the odd indecent proposal over a cocktail in the classier bars of Soho.
Nottingham Playhouse has excelled itself in providing a lavish series of ingenious sets and a parade of camp couture whilst using a cast who’s comic timing is pitch perfect. For the purists amongst us, the staging stays true to the period and recreates the atmosphere with style. This production is comparable to anything you’d see in the West End and is well worth a trip to sunny Nottingham to see.
The show runs until Saturday the 22nd of September at The Nottingham Playhouse
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.