Articles

The Importance of Being Earnest

Tues 22nd - Sat 26th May 2012

Director: Olly Medlicott

Roehampton University Theatre
Digby Stuart Drive

, Roehampton University

Roehampton Lane


SW15 5PU

Read the NODA review here

Synopsis

At the opening of the play, two friends, Earnest Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, are discussing the benefits of social deception. Earnest confesses that, when in the country, he is Jack Worthing, a respectable and serious man who has the misfortune of having a younger brother named Earnest who is something of a libertine. Thus he is able to assume the identity of his non-existent brother when he wishes to enjoy the delights of life in the city.

Algernon, meanwhile, confides that he has a fictional relative living in the country, an invalid named Bunbury, whom he is obliged to visit whenever he needs to avoid an odious social obligation. Jack has come to visit Algernon in order to propose to his cousin Gwendolen, but the arrival of Gwendolen is complicated by the fact that she is accompanied by her formidable aunt, Lady Bracknell. Whilst Algernon distracts her chaperone, Jack manages to make the proposal, but is somewhat perturbed by the fact that Gwendolen seems to have accepted largely because he has the name Earnest. He resolves to have himself re-christened by the local Canon, Chasuble, as soon as possible.

But the two are discovered by Lady Bracknell, who is horrified to discover Jack was adopted after being discovered in a handbag at Victoria station, and she forbids all further contact between the two of them. Algernon, meanwhile, has discovered that Jack has a wealthy ward named Cicely. Without Jack’s consent, he goes to his house and, pretending to be the errant younger brother Earnest, he soon succeeds in charming Cicely despite the presence of her frosty governess, Miss Prism. In an effort to put his double life behind him, Jack then arrives in full mourning dress, announcing the death of his younger brother, a claim somewhat complicated by the presence of Algernon in the guise of Earnest.

The arrival of Gwendolen further complicates events, as the two young women, who initially meet alone, are both indignantly certain that they are engaged to Earnest. When Algernon and Jack reappear, their deceptions are exposed, but before matters can be resolved Lady Bracknell arrives. Her initial displeasure at the discovery that Algernon and Cicely are engaged is dispelled when she discovers how wealthy the young lady is, but a stalemate ensues when Jack refuses consent for the marriage of his ward to Algernon unless Lady Bracknell allows him to marry Gwendolen.

Amidst the confusion, Lady Bracknell suddenly recognises Miss Prism as the family governess who, twenty-eight years earlier, took a baby boy for a walk in a perambulator and never returned. Miss Prism reveals that she lost the boy when, in a moment of abstraction, she accidentally put him into a handbag and left him at Victoria station. Jack still has the handbag he was found in as a boy, and as his identity as Algernon’s long-lost brother is proven, no objection remains on the part of Lady Bracknell as to his suitability as a husband for Gwendolen. She herself, however, stubbornly insists that she will only marry a man who bears the name Earnest. A breathless hunt through the family archives ensues, until the happy discovery that Jack’s real name is, indeed, Earnest.

Cast

Algernon - Mark Smith
Lane - Oliver Samson
Jack/Ernest - Alan Reiss
Gwendolen - Flo Nash
Lady Bracknell - Alison Walters
Miss Prism - Laura Harrison
Cecily - Holly Manning

Photos

All photos of this production were taken by Jonathon Vines

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