Love, marriage, and secret identities: it’s Oscar Wilde at his finest and controversial self. “The Importance of being Earnest” will showcase Lincoln this week,and promises to amuse its audience and confuse its characters.
Wilde subtitled his last play as a “Trivial Comedy for Serious People”. The social obligations of “serious” aristocrats are challenged and mocked by Wilde, and escaped by the characters of Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, who create false identities in order to misbehave.
Isla Carter, who plays Gwendolen Fairfax, the love interest of Worthing’s alter ego Ernest, says that the challenges don’t just lay within Wilde’s writing: “The challenge that we meet as actors is the fact that this play has been done so many times. So our challenge is not to become carbon copies of the famous people who have done them before.
“The language and the style is so paramount to the playing of these characters, but you have to find a truth to [them] otherwise you just become a walking, talking epigram.”
Carter describes Wilde’s literature as “very much of its time”, saying that the play will take the modern-day audience back to the Victorian era to experience the context in which it was written: “I think just as Shakespeare, there are still themes that we enjoy -love is a continual theme that’s always being explored now as much as it was then.
“But I think you should take this play in context: it’s set in the 1890s, and these huge houses and the type of life these people led is different to our own,” she says.
For Carter, escaping the trap of being a “walking, talking epigram” meant finding Fairfax’s motivation, and portraying that clearly:
“Although there are some very highfollutin texts and sentences to get yourself round, it’s really important to remember that this character really is in love, and her motivation is to get the man she wants. So, that’s what I’m trying to play and to keep that thought through everything I’m doing.”
“The Importance of Being Earnest”, whether known to the audience or not, contains some of the most quoted lines ever written. These lines are often awaited and carry an expectation to be delivered with care.
“You do feel the curse of a particular line sometimes, because there’s a pressure to make it funny. But we just do what we do and offer it up as well as we can,” Carter says.
“I think what works really well with comedies, is to play them straight. Occasionally [the characters] know they’re being witty, but a lot of comedy is born out of the characters not necessarily knowing that what they’re saying is amusing. We as actors have to remember that this is the first time these characters have said what they said.”
From the Lincoln Theatre Royal Repertory Company, “The Importance of Being Earnest” plays the Lincoln Theatre Royal from Tuesday, May 18th – 22nd, and Carter promises a show that everyone, Wilde fanatic or not, can enjoy. You can buy tickets and find more information about the performance by visiting the Lincoln Theatre Royal’s website.Tweet