Acting Earnest

I’m back! Apologies for my absence these past few weeks I’m afraid I’ve been busier than a bee. I was lucky enough to get a role in the ensemble for a community production of The Importance of Being Earnest at South Hill Park. We had three weeks of rehearsals before we hit the stage for seven performances in five days so it was all a bit hectic! I tend to stay off the stage and behind the computer screen but on occasion I like to act. This was the first play I’ve done since I left school and I had an amazing time. Everyone at South Hill Park was super friendly and made me feel so welcome.

Lady Bracknell was played by Gwen Taylor which made the whole experience even more exciting. Gwen was lovely to work with and so supportive of me as I took to the stage for the first time. Alastair Whatley, the director, created a wonderful interpretation of the play and had us doing crazy things like raves and carrying people across stage. All the actors did a fantastic job bringing Oscar Wilde’s words to life that I was still chuckling away three weeks in.

Acting in the play was great fun but I guess it’s the writer in me that kept being drawn to the script, listening back stage, waiting for my favourite lines to be spoken. I decided early on that my favourite part of the whole play is Algernon’s response to Jack announcing he is going to be christened:

“JACK: Yes, but you have been christened. That is the important thing.

ALGERNON: Quite so. So I know my constitution can stand it. If you are not quite sure about your ever having been christened, I must say I think it rather dangerous your venturing on it now. It might make you very unwell. You can hardly have forgotten that some one very closely connected with you was very nearly carried off this week in Paris by a severe chill.”

For those of you who don’t know the play the person that was ‘very nearly carried off this week’ is Jack’s fictional younger brother. A character he made up only to then kill off when he became an inconvenience. The hilarity ensues when, just after Jack informs everyone that his ‘brother’ is dead, Algernon walks in claiming to be said brother. The extract above is not only funny because of the ridiculous suggestion that one might be made ill as a result of being christened but because of what follows. A technique named the ‘call back’. The ‘call back’ is when a joke that was made earlier is brought up again, later in the show. If you watch any talk show or comedian you’ll see this happen all the time and it never fails to get a laugh. You’d have to talk to a psychologist to figure out why we find it funny, all I know is that when Algernon reminds Jack that he is ‘closely connected’ with someone who was ‘very nearly carried off’ the joke is familiar, yet fresh and down right hilarious. Wilde, of course, adds to the humour through the complexity of the story and the fact that not only is Algernon’s excuse for Jack needing to be careful about getting christened completely fictional but he himself is posing as the very person who nearly died.

The story is a beautifully organised mess that remains relevant and funny to this day and I am honoured to have been a part of the production.


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