The Importance of Being Earnest – A Trivial Comedy for Serious People

Showing at Östgöta Nation, Uppsala 16-18 May

By the time he died in Paris in November 1900, Oscar Wilde was one of the most recognised and controversial

names in his home country of England. A singular wit with a talent for playwrights, poems and novels. His later plays,

dealing increasingly with the decadence and duplicity of society, were as popular with liberal thinkers as they were

condemned by conservative elements. The Importance of Being Earnest was Wilde’s final work before he was tried

and convicted for ‘Gross indecency with men’ leading to his imprisonment, exile in France, and final impoverished

death. The play, in keeping with the work Wilde produced at the height of his fame, is every bit as clever, biting and

poetic as its writer. Like him, it is a reminder of the artistic beauty that is only achievable by defying convention and

overcoming contemporary prejudices.

Researching the play and watching one of its many adaptations (and I would tentatively advise you to wait and wit-
ness the plot twists and dialogue in our production, although I may be slightly biased…) you might be struck by the

stark contrast between this work and Östgöta’s prior play, The Virtuous Burglar (Dario Fo.) Where Fo’s comedy was

halfway between a slapstick and satirical comedy, any number of Earnest largely sees the actors standing motionless

while performing the poetic monologues briskly, letting Wilde’s excellent wordplay speak for itself. The play titles

itself as a ‘Trivial Comedy for Serious People’ and these interpretations faithfully enforce this description.

Earnest, despite being a critique of 19 th century high-society, contains many themes and characters that remain

alive in their relevance to today’s society. The frivolous activities and complacent extravagance of the characters

always has, and always will be, valid criticism to those born into money. Whether it is John Worthing’s reliance on his

foster- father’s business investments, or Lady Bracknell’s disdain of the lower classes’ infringement into her wealthy

social-circles, is not difficult to find contemporary examples of these characters. Even Algernon, the sarcastic biting

wit and lifelong societal leech, will seem familiar to many students; a narcissist of the highest order, who loudly

proclaims his poverty while shamelessly spending his family and friends’ money on clothes, food and expensive

outings.

The play is a tour de force of the English language, and one of the most popular of its time. Moreover, the cast (last

seen in the same location in playing Darioh Fo’s Virtuous Burgler) are well-versed in performing convincingly in

English. It is bound to entertain, whether you are an exchange student, or a Swede looking to experience one of the

19 th century’s signature pieces of theatre!

Viewing Times

– ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ will show at Östgöta Nation’s Stura Salen (Great Hall) on the 16th, 17th, 18th of May 2017.

– Performances begin at 19:00 – plenty of time to have a drink in our nation’s pub ‘Tages’ beforehand!

 

Simon Elgar

@Young_Moriarty

 

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