I have always had a special connection with The Importance of Being Earnest. Not only was it the first play I ever read in English, but also what made me fall in love with Oscar Wilde. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the version I was going to see was a musical adaptation. Oscar Wilde as a musical? Really?!
Written by All-In-One Theatre Company’s artistic director Phil Jones, Ernest gives the play a musical twist. Although it may sound confusing at first, the show is exactly what it promises to be: “Wilde, but not as we know it”.
Set in contemporary London, the protagonist undertakes a journey through Wilde’s time, a world where people take on multiple identities, give others the image of themselves they like best and are able to create their own world. Parallels with the modern world, which is run by social media, are made clear from the beginning: indeed Jack, the show’s protagonist, starts his journey only after having logged onto his computer, Windows login music included.
…a quote about a misplaced umbrella in particular is sure to make everyone laugh…
With the characters catapulted into another world, Wilde’s imagination comes to life, perfectly complemented by lyrics that are just as witty as the original text. Mainly sticking to the original text, some of it was cut down in order for the show to be only one hour long. Some new dialogue was added – a quote about a misplaced umbrella in particular is sure to make everyone laugh – and the songs convey the character’s thoughts and ideas.
It might feel strange at first to be watching a musical play in such a small venue as the Etcetera Theatre, one of London’s best pub theatres, but the sense of familiarity that is quickly established in the room somehow makes the show feel more real.
…he makes his appearance ravenously eating a muffin…
The performances also contribute to making Ernest a must-see. All the actors perfectly represent the characters they are portraying, but Amanda Bailey as Lady Bracknell and Linford Hydes as Algernon particularly stand out. The latter, from the moment he makes his appearance ravenously eating a muffin, is exactly how I pictured Algernon to be when I first read the play.
His mannerisms and expressions make sure you leave the theatre with a big grin on your face, and you will probably find yourself humming one of the show’s songs. One in particular is very likely get stuck in your head: it’s been three days and I am still singing it.
“It’s got to be Ernest…”