Once again I managed to combine reading a play with watching the play performed on stage afterwards (the last one was Death of a Salesman a few months ago). This time it’s the delightful play by my favorite author Oscar Wilde. It is funny, in a very 19th century English way. I enjoyed the way it pokes fun at the class system of the time, courting and marriage.
I listened to the Overdue Podcast (my latest favorite podcast!) about the play just yesterday, and the guys seem to think of the play as being too lighthearted and mainly word play, which I found very interesting, though disagree with. Perhaps you need to be a certain type of person to appreciate Wilde’s style — tackling serious things in life with a healthy dose of humour, as made clear by his very own quote: “We should treat all the trivial things of life seriously, and all the serious things of life with sincere and studied triviality.”
I’m nodding. Yes, yes, YES.
Oscar Wilde is known for his witty quotes that I often found scattered all over the internet, and I was happy to find many familiar lines in this play and got to know them in the context they’re originally from. Some of them in the order of their appearances (and the characters that say them):
“The very essence of romance in uncertainty.” – Algernon
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Algernon
“Health is the primary duty of life.” – Lady Bracknell
“A man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing.” – Lady Bracknell
“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.” – Algernon
“I don’t like novels that end happily. They depress me so much.” – Cecily
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” – Gwendolen
“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.” – Gwendolen
The 2015 Play at Vaudeville Theatre, London
The Importance of Being Earnest has 5 major characters: 2 couples and an imposing Aunt figure, as you can see in the poster of the 2015 London play below.
My great surprise was the aunt – Lady Bracknell – was played by a man! (David Suchet) Even more surprised to find that it has happened before in 2011 production with Geoffrey Rush! I would love to see Geoffrey Rush playing Lady Bracknell. Just thinking about already put a smile to my face :)
The rest of the casts quite fit with how I imagined them to be. Algernon was played by Philip Cumbus, Jack is played by Michael Benz. Gwendolen is played by Emily Barber, and last but not least, probably my favorite actress of the night, was Imogen Doel, playing Cecily (far right in the poster).
The thing with English period play like this is that sometimes it could be challenging to fully catch the speech with thick, sort of old-ish accent — with its high up and down tone (I find modern accent easier), depending on the actor/actress and how far back or high up you sit. Keep in mind too that plays in West End don’t usually use microphones, as the theaters are pretty small. Even if the theatre is quite well built the actors do need to make considerable effort to be audible and comprehensible (you can’t mumble!). So my favorite actress/actor is often the person whose speech is the clearest, and in this case it’s young Cecily :). Every time she entered, the stage felt a bit brighter too. Love.
I feel that the script could be enjoyed by itself — I did. I thought it was funny even without being spoken out loud. But if you have a chance to go see it performed, definitely do.
Mee’s rating (on script): 5/5