Our controversial production was one of the most talked about shows at the Festival of European Anglophone Theatrical Societies 2011 in Geneva, and was awarded with a prize for best set design (Ben Stolk).
Jack and Algernon, two young pillars of society, are both avoiding the duties and responsibilities of Victorian social life. By inventing friends and brothers they try to escape from boredom and tedious obligations. Will they succeed in their pursuit of love and freedom? Or will they find defeat in marriage and respectability?
The play mocks Victorian society, but does not attack it. To Wilde social conventions were a farce, but a necessary farce: too important to be taken seriously.
Oscar Wilde was a wild dandy at the height of his success in 1895’s London when The Importance of Being Earnest premiered. His unmatched sharp wit, eloquent writing, and his talent for satire, all culminating in this masterpiece.
But the importance of Earnest was in itself also a paradox: the subtitle of the play isn’t A Trivial Comedy for Serious People by accident. Wilde neglected to take his public opponent, the Marquis of Queensberry, serious enough and sued him for slander in a trial that would later horribly backfire. Fifteen weeks later he was put in jail. It was the end of his career.
If there is anything Wilde seems to want to say with this play then it is that the social conventions of the Victorian era were meeting their end. He poked effortlessly through the hypocrisy of the upper class. Marriage had become a business arrangement in which status, heritage, property (and for the ladies: purity), were more important than love. His two lead characters, Jack and Algernon, well educated revelers, would like to get married. However they are trapped in a necessity to portray themselves as different from the people they actually are so they may obtain the marriage with the woman they each desire: Earnest in town, Jack in the country. The ladies, for their part, have formed their world view primarily from dime novels, and arrange marriages in their imaginations, sealed in diaries and poetry books. At the same time Lady Bracknell is mostly interested in heritage and the size of the dowry and inheritance, taking up position as a bulldozer matchmaker. Making sure that no one marries beneath their station.
Herman Duchenne as Algernon Moncrieff
Peter Hubbard as Jack Worthing
Johannes Micah Westera as Rev. Chasuble
Joan Prince as Lady Bracknell
Lara Stanisic as Miss Prism
Catherine van Zeeland as Cecily Cardew
Julia Lintelo as Gwendolyn Fairfax
Sandy Topzand as Gwendolyn Fairfax
Ben Stolk Set Design
Fenneke Brookhuis Costume Design