The Importance of Being Earnest - as you've never seen it before

It’s not The Importance of Being Earnest which is coming to the New Theatre Royal Portsmouth from November 9-12. It’s The Importance of Being … Earnest? You pause for the dots and then tilt your head and say the word Earnest almost as a question in itself.
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So says Guido Garcia Lueches, who plays Algernon in an Oscar Wilde with a crucial difference: “The show more less starts as a traditional version of The Importance of Being Earnest until the lead actor playing Earnest – or Jack if you know the show – doesn't show up. The director thinks that the only logical solution is to cast a member of the audience and we select an audience member. The selection process is quite simple but also quite studied. We're looking for an audience member that is willing to come up and play with us.”

In other words, if you look terrified or stare at your knees at the moment they're choosing, then you are completely safe: you absolutely will not be chosen. The point is that the company needs someone who is going to go along with the joke: “We really don't want someone to come up and have a bad time. We want the complete opposite. We want to be able to celebrate whoever we pick and we're looking for someone with a little spark, someone a bit unique.

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“Every now and again we do regret some choices but it's usually all right. The fun is the element that you never quite know.

The Importance of Being Earnest (pic by Dylan Silk)The Importance of Being Earnest (pic by Dylan Silk)
The Importance of Being Earnest (pic by Dylan Silk)

"Every show is different. The structure of the Oscar Wilde is there and we do still manage to get through the whole play but just with other people on stage with us. I won't ruin the surprise but it might be more than one person!

“There are ways to get through it whoever we choose but the point is that the show is always amazing and always insane. Our brand is chaos and that's what we create. The whole thing started out when we were thinking whether we could get an audience member to come up and play in a show that they have never rehearsed. We love the Oscar Wilde original and there's quite a lot of themes in there that actually play about with identity and frivolity and things that really do lend themselves to this concept. We also wanted to do something that was well known, that people knew enough to recognise without us having to spell it out. It's got the combination of being something that people will know but also something that gives us a huge amount of potential.

"Some people say that Oscar is turning in his grave but I am quite convinced that he would love this. It is such a silly show that we're putting on and he was always about the stupid and the fun and making fun of the structures that some people consider untouchable. People say how dare you mess around with the sacred text but we feel that's precisely the attitude that Oscar Wilde would have taken, just making fun. We've been doing it for a few years. We started developing the show pre-Covid and then we took it to the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of times. This year was our third year in a row in Edinburgh and now we are expanding it to do a full two-hour show on a big tour.”

Tickets from the venue.

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