Purely Pensive Productions Presents The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde's quintessential and enduring satire on Victorian ways.
This play about social mores was first performed in 1895 and is truly Wilde at his razor sharp best. Witty and deliciously superficial it mocks Victorian traditions and social customs, marriage and the pursuit of love with the use of paradox and irony.
JR Richards plays charmingly duplicitous John (Jack/Earnest) Worthing, J.P in this trivial comedy for serious people and admits that the most challenging element involved in bringing life to Worthing was getting rid of his 2013, working-class physicality and mannerisms and adopting the world of the upper-class 1890's. "Obviously there is the shift in linguistics however; it never really hit me how different it would feel physically to be in the body of wealthy man of the late 1800's," says Richards. "It took a lot of working Jack's physicality into my own everyday life to try and achieve this. Some aspects can be quite restricting, especially regarding the lack of fluidity in movement which was a challenge to avoid adopting too much in my own world."
In order to facilitate a meaningful existence, Worthing invents a brother, the morally unrestrained Ernest, who is as different from his respectable John persona than chalk is from cheese. Playing this duality would be a joy for any actor and Richards is no different. "The most enjoyable aspect is playing his dramatic shifts from his uptight, highly moral upper-class citizen to his hopeless romantic, often weak and dominated persona," says Richards. "The contrast is stark and it’s genuinely fun being one form of Jack one minute and then completely opposite depending on who he's interacting with. Gives you a bit of a workout."
Wilde had an indisputable penchant for language but Earnest has been acclaimed as possibly his best work with its use of verbal conceit focusing on naught more than conversation. It is these verbal conceits and conversations that allow the clever banter of the comedy to live above the ordinary. "The themes and comedy of the play are still relevant and hilarious today," says Richards. "Even as we head towards the end of the rehearsal process I'm still laughing at some of his comments on 'modern culture' and Wilde’s tongue in cheek references to the tabloids which, 130 years later can be related to our own 'modern culture'. He boldly laughs in the face of the upper-class and makes a mockery of expectations society has placed on the way men and women should or should not behave which of course is still being seen in our own society."
"There could be a lot of possible interpretations of the play but for me he’s saying; ‘Don't conform to what society has set out for you. Make your own mind up’. Even though the characters in the end get what they want due to fitting into the ideals of society, or their prospective partner's ideals, Wilde's writing plays upon the notion of how ridiculous it is and what extraordinary lengths one would go to just to fit in."
Purely Pensive Productions was formed in January 2005 by Jeremy Ives and Angie Bedford and is based in Melbourne’s North East. Part of the company's credo is to provide an opportunity for youths to explore their potential in the world of non-professional theatre by providing experience in theatre both onstage and behind the scenes. Ives and Bedford are very much hands on creatives with Ives the artistic Director and Bedford the company's President. The Importance of Being Earnest follows on the heels of the company's last successful show, The History Boys.
Says Richards: "The Importance of Being Earnest is a modern story in an old setting with flamboyant costume, a hilarious script and a talented cast… what more could one want?"
Friday 6th September, 8pm
Saturday 7th September, 8pm
Thursday 12th September, 8pm
Friday 13th September, 8pm
Saturday 14th September, 8pm
Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre
Corner of Sydney and Glenlyon Roads, Brunswick