The Importance of Being Earnest – a new take

22 Apr


The other week I went to the Barbican to watch Gerald Barry’s adaptation of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.  I knew very little about what to expect, except that it was an operatic version of the famous play.  I should mention that although I have never read or watched the play, I had a basic understanding of the premise given its ubiquity.  I should also mention I’m not particularly a fan of opera but these tickets were a gift and it had received a plethora of positive reviews, so I was optimistic.

It’s one of Wilde’s lighter plays, humorous and farcical in nature although it does touch upon the rigid, ridiculous social conventions of the time.  This adaptation took place on a rather bare stage, on which the orchestra sat alongside the actors.  In some ways, the actors singing their lines in an operatic fashion worked – it added to their ridiculousness and pomposity.  But in another way, it was quite frustrating and try-hard, and lost a great deal of novelty after the first few minutes.

The orchestra’s discordant score along with the characters’ manic dialogue created something of a frenzied, ridiculous atmosphere.   Add in plate smashing and jumping around the stage while singing in falsetto, and you get a weird mix of humour and irritation and I left the theatre nursing a mild headache, relieved to return to the world of normal speech.


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