The Importance of Being Earnest: 1981

A farcical comedy written by Oscar Wilde. It was first performed in 1895 in London. The play’s protagonists maintain fictitious personae to escape burdensome social obligations. Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play’s major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways. Some contemporary reviews praised the play’s humour and the culmination of Wilde’s artistic career, while others were cautious about its lack of social messages. Its high farce and witty dialogue have helped make The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde’s most enduringly popular play.

My first direction attempt was The Importance of Being Earnest. It created my belief that Wilde plays should not be attempted by amateurs; so much depends on style and timing. Regional accents are no good. I instituted two rehearsals a week but it didn’t really answer. The actress who was Lady Bracknell tried to imitate Edith Evans’ “Handbag!” instead of doing it differently as I wanted. The performance was by no means all failure, but it wasn’t Wilde.

Geoff Guy