The Importance of Being Earnest at Tara Theatre
How on earth just two women believed they could perform a nine-part Oscar Wilde classic with almost zero props in a small room in the middle of Earlsfield is an utter mystery. How on earth they succeeded is an utter marvel.
This rather brilliant performance of The Importance of Being Earnest builds even further upon Wilde’s wit to create a raucously funny show. As in the playwright’s original story, the show follows two protagonists, John and Algernon, who invent false identities in order to escape their social obligations at home. This all leads to some glorious mistruths and some fantastic misunderstandings. But while the narrative here is more or less identical to the source material, this isn’t an average performance of The Importance of Being Earnest. It’s more like Oscar Wilde meets pantomime meets The Play That Goes Wrong… in a good way!
Kudzanayi Chiwawa (John Worthing, Lane, Cecily Cardew, Dr Chasuble and Lady Bracknell) and Ayesha Casely-Hayford (Algernon Moncrieff, Gwendolen Fairfax, Merriman, Miss Prism and also Lady Bracknell) are wonderful. A lot of humour is made out of role swapping, as the two compete for the best part of Lady Bracknell, and the struggle of playing multiple parts in one conversation. But, ultimately, it’s remarkable how they can each perform five parts distinctively (and also play themselves).
The two actors involve the crowd at every possible stage, from offering them cucumber sandwiches to having them make countryside noises. But it doesn’t feel like the cringey obligations of, say, a pantomime. Instead, Chiwawa and Casely-Hayford create an open, friendly and fun atmosphere in which the audience feels involved.
Maybe one or two jokes don’t quite land right and the audience participation might be a tad too much and unnecessary at a couple of points, but there’s little else in this show to find fault with.
On the face of it, such a rendition of Wilde’s classic sounds like an impossible task. How can an almost propless, basically set-less, two-person performance of The Importance of Being Earnest be any good? But the cast do it incredibly well. This production is genuinely, brilliantly, truly funny, definitely worth venturing to Earlsfield for and sure to be a great night out for anyone who does.
Photo: Harry Elletson
The Importance of Being Earnest is at Tara Theatre from 27th February until 16th March 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.