Lawrence Bately Theatre / Dukes Theatre (venue)
22 April 2021 (released)
A satirising of stereotypes using the worlds of theatre , TV sitcom, Rom-Com , and social media through the lens of Oscar Wilde is a tall order and is so nearly pulled off in this funny if a little confused digital production.
By placing it is the North of ‘bastard hills’ and flat caps it certainly achieves its stereotyping but by losing some of the clever language of the original The Importance of Being Earnest it jars as a complete piece. It is laugh out loud at times and is highly enjoyable but in the way you enjoy a series of themed sketches not a complete production.
Here is it the cameo’s from Davina De Campo as herself, Hugh Dennis as a flatulent Daytime TV host, and Paul Chahidi as the international film director that are most memorable. Which is where the telling of the story and the additional subplots becomes a little outbalanced.
It begins as Earnest /Jamil (Gurjeet Singh) is creating one of his vlogs, where as struggling actor we see Jamil strive for acting recognition hidden under the guise of Earnest . This creates a world that holds interest and originality for the play and its theme of confused identity . But as we are repositioned onto the Rom-Com film/theatre set, where Earnest is shadowing the leading star Algy (Tom Dixon) the plot of Oscar Wilde’s play gradually gets muddled in the mix. Parts of the story are rushed through so that the nicely crafted characters of Gul and Safina ( Nikki Patel , Zoe Iqbal) , the two suitors to Earnest and Algy, never get the screen time for their humorous confrontations which seems essential to the plot.
Having the more extreme acting style, and breaking of the fourth wall was reminiscent of Acorn Antiques, giving a further dimension that fights with, rather than expands upon the storytelling.
It is something that must have been huge fun to write and to perform and in these Covid racked days we desperately need that bit of escapism, and this delivers in massively entertaining spade-fulls. If you watch this as a piece about, as writer Yasmeen Khan states ‘someone not being allowed to be who they really are’ and not as an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play, then it totally succeeds. But to call it The Importance of Being Earnest creates comparisons that inevitably fall short.