The Importance of Being… Earnest? By Say It Again, Sorry? - Review

The Importance of Being… Earnest? By Say It Again, Sorry? – Review

Pleasance Beyond, Edinburgh Fringe Festival – 6th August 2023

So, I was in Scotland and I never need an excuse to visit the wonderful Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This production jumped out at me for two reasons. The first was the title. I am a huge fan of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde but my attention was grabbed by the interesting and unexpected punctuation – so I had to learn more. The write up says ‘When a traditional production of Oscar Wilde’s classic play gets underway, everything seems to be going perfectly to plan… that is, until the lead actor fails to arrive on cue.’ This suggested my second reason for wanting to see it because I got the impression that I was going to see something along the lines of two productions I absolutely adore, namely, ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ and ‘Noises Off.’

There are, undoubtedly parallels that can be drawn from these related productions but what the talented and innovative folk at ‘Say It Again, Sorry?’ has done is take on elements of them to produce a very different immersive and interactive production which draws the audience into the wonderful world of Oscar Wilde, cucumber sandwiches, a few glasses of whisky and the formidable presence of Lady Bracknell herself.

The audience is led into the theatre and into the parlour of one Algernon Moncrieff who is serenading his disinterested butler, Lane, from the piano just prior to the arrival of good friend Earnest Worthing. When the latter fails to appear, all hell breaks loose with panicked goings on, swift re-writes and wholesale recasting of parts to ensure that the show does, indeed, go on.

I cannot be too descriptive further than that for fear of spoiling the production for those who have yet to see it, and, indeed, due to the nature of the piece, no performance is ever the same. Suffice it to say that hilarity ensues throughout and the cast work tirelessly and extremely quick wittedly to produce something that will satisfy everyone. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the wondrous wordsmith and quintessentially English, Oscar Wilde would be splitting his sides at the loving but irreverent homage to arguably his most famous play.

‘The Importance of Being … Earnest?’ has been in development since 2019 and before the pesky pandemic blighted our wonderful theatres and I am delighted that this incredibly talented company has persevered to bring this thoroughly entertaining production to the Edinburgh Fringe where it remained until 27th August with performances daily. It has been extended to a full production and embarked on a UK tour. I will be certain to catch up with it again at The Customs House in South Shields when it arrives at the north east seaside venue in March 2024.

Love live The Importance of Being Earnest, long live Say it Again, Please? Theatre Company and God help the audiences as this superb production travels the length and breadth of the UK in the coming months. Cucumber sandwiches and crumpets are optional. Pip, pip, and tally ho – bring out your inner Bunbury and join this hilarious production – tour dates below.

  • Stephen Stokoe

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