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The importance of being... Earnest?

Say it again, Sorry theatre company, after Oscar Wilde

The Mix, Theatr Clwyd, Mold

October 4th - 7th, 2023; 2hrs


A scene from The Importance of Being...Earnest? by Say It Again, Sorry theatre company
Tearing up the script: fun with Oscar WIlde in The Importance of Being... Earnest?
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Take a classic comedy, well-loved and full of clever dialogue. What might happen if the star fails to appear?

This is the premise behind Say It Again, Sorry theatre company's hilarious version of The Importance of Being... Earnest, currently touring nationwide and a very funny night out.

The first act develops into a delightful farce - along the lines of The Play that goes Wrong or Noises Off. The main actor having missed his opening cue and found absent, he is urgently replaced with a member of the audience - which of course features all kinds of fish-out-of-water gags, since the newcomer has no idea what he is doing or where he is supposed to be on stage.

This is funny enough, but then the same fate befalls other cast members, prey to lost voice, broken arm and so on, all similarly replaced. Suddenly this becomes quite a brave experiment in how far a famous text can be pushed. At one point in the second act there are eight audience members on stage and no cast members. At the show I saw - of course it's different every night - one volunteer was asked to play the piano and this person was also a carer for a someone with a learning difficulty - who also went up on stage. It was a great moment when they were able to play some Debussy.

Allowing so many members of the audience on stage runs the risk of the company losing control and seeing the performance fall flat, or descend into chaos. The reward, though, is comic gold. The second act becomes a gentle parody of Wilde’s play, with a middle-aged man playing Lady Bracknell and Cecily played by Alex, another man.

Through all this the play doesn't lose its direction and the cast manages to stick loosely to the text. The director (Tom Bulpett) had to give a strong indication of what was required of each volunteer while also playing a part himself - with all other cast members following suit. Guido Garcia Lueches as Algernon, Ben Mann as Josh the stage manager and Rhys Tees as Lane the butler produce deliberate ham-acting while setting volunteers up for laughs in ways that maintain momentum and the show's free-wheeling sense of fun.

Would Oscar Wilde cringe at seeing his masterpiece pulled apart for farcical purpose? I believe he would have loved it for its sense of irreverent fun and audience involvement. This was a great night of entertainment - even for the volunteers. It may be completely different tomorrow and subsequent nights, but that is the beauty of this five-star stage adventure.


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