EARNEST: The Boys Get Wilde

Reimagined and made-over, a modern take of one of Oscar Wilde’s classics, Earnest, opened last night at the Q Loft. Running for a short season from 27th August to 6th September, I’d highly recommend (probably before you even read the rest of this review) grabbing a ticket for the sure to sell out show.

Tickets available at www.patronbase.com/_QTheatre/Productions/5319/Performances 

Greeted by a very masculine Lady Bracknell, a Hendrick’s gin and a goodie bag consisting of soda and condoms, Earnest promised to be a stellar night. Claiming to be an honest take of the classic The Importance of Being Earnest but with a dash more flair, Earnest certainly delivered. 

The refreshed classic is set in a 1950s gay gentlemen’s club and bizarrely features the hits of singer Cher. Played by an all-male cast, Earnest mostly steers away from over-done drag and instead portrays their female characters in classy suits. At first the combination of a male playing a female but while still dressed as male can be quite confusing, by the end of the extravaganza all gender confusion is forgotten. The sassy Gwendolen (Oscar Wilson), seductive Cecily (Eli Matthewson) and instructive Miss Prism (Jordan Selwyn) are all played so convincingly that by the final scene I truly felt I could ask them any feminine query, from tampons to topknots. The intimidating Lady Bracknell is the only character portrayed in true drag and is played by the talented Stephen Butterworth. The use of limited actual cross –dressing in the play is highly effective as it steers the audience away from the cheap laughs of effeminitism and towards the true humour of the dialogue and the quality acting. 

While the portrayal of the female characters was striking and entertaining, it was actually the male characters that impressed me the most. From their engaging interactions with the audience to their heavily loaded innuendoes, Algernon (Jordan Mooney), Jack (David Sutherland), Chasuble (Andrew Ford), and Lane and Merriman (both played by Cole Jenkins) were excellent performers. Sutherland was a particular stand out, surprising and delighting both myself and my theatre companion when his character Jack humorously told us that “he didn’t even like this song” during one of Gwendolen and Cecily’s performances. 

Earnest sells itself as a show about the pursuit of love that celebrates the achievement of the allowance of same-sex marriage in New Zealand. This play presents a modern and humorous take on an old classic while maintaining its integrity and staying true to the original script. The original playwright, Oscar Wilde, was himself a persecuted homosexual and I have no doubt he would have been proud to see his play offered in this manner. Theatre Company Fractious Tash have continually aimed to push to the barriers of how classics should be performed, and in collaboration with Last Tapes Theatre Company, they have certainly achieved a spectacular and unique rendition. 

If you have time this week (and to be honest even if you don’t) definitely get yourself a ticket to this amazing show. With superior acting, free alcohol and guaranteed laughs you’ll be missing out if you don’t. If I had to give Earnest one fault, it could only be that I wish the dancing and singing of Cher and Sonny’s I Got You Babe at the end of the show had continued longer, as the play left me in a ridiculously vulgar and slightly wild mood. 

Tickets available at www.patronbase.com/_QTheatre/Productions/5319/Performances 

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