Creating a truly original production of Oscar Wilde’s great comedy is no easy task. Its very familiarity is a major part of its popularity. Much of the dialogue is so axiomatic that you can almost hear the audience pre-empting the actors.
First published in The Times, Tuesday July 10 2018
At first glance, there appears to be a bulky, Oscar Wilde-shaped hole in Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s summer season programme. Lively, intelligent productions of the great aesthete’s masterpieces, from An Ideal Husband to The Importance of Being Earnest, all directed by Richard Baron, have been among the rural theatre’s more memorable outings in recent years.
First published in The Times, Friday August 11 2017
Every so often, productions of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest reinstate the play’s “lost” fourth act, an extraneous sequence that was whipped out by the playwright at the behest of his original producer. The short scene, in which the solicitor Grimsby pursues Algernon (masquerading as Earnest) for debts racked up by Jack (in his guise as Earnest), adds a further frisson of jeopardy to Wilde’s beautifully trivial comedy of manners.
First published in The Times, Monday November 2 2015
The last play that Richard Baron directed for Pitlochry Festival Theatre was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, in which the director stuck faithfully by the playwright’s credo that seriousness should be hidden beneath a “sincere and studied triviality”. Graham Greene’s black comedy about a vacuum-cleaner salesman who becomes embroiled in espionage is quite the opposite of Wilde. Its complex story and “winds of change” setting may lend it an air of import, but Greene’s exploration of the British secret service and their role in Cuba on the eve of revolution is never more than skin deep.
First published in The Times, Thursday August 6 2015
Line by line, Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece is so familiar you can almost hear the audience mouthing along to some of the speeches. Yet there’s a reverent hush before Margaret Preece, as Lady Bracknell, delivers the play’s most famous line. Will she opt for the time-honoured Edith Evans method of enunciating all nine of the syllables in the word “handbag” or, as it transpires, something altogether more understated but just as devastating?