“Shall we go and get lunch?”
At the Rose Theatre in Kingston, The Importance of Being Earnest is playing in rep with another play, Farewell To The Theatre by Harley Granville Barker. A short 50 minute one-act piece, it stars Jane Asher as a famous actress who has decided to bow out from the theatre who visits her lawyer, Richard Cordery, to explain her reasons and revisit their shared past of missed opportunities. Written in 1916, this is the European premiere of this play and I am not sure that it is one which really merits this production: it is hard to see any real connection with Wilde’s piece, it is only on for just a handful of performances and it completely failed to engage me.
Granville Barker’s writing has some attractive moments but the abiding theme of the importance of the theatre feels a little too self-regarding and quite frankly, not as interesting as all that. Asher does wear a fabulous aquamarine satin dress in it and I do love Richard Cordery, but the static nature of this piece, also directed by Stephen Unwin, worked against it. So it was hard to shake the feeling that this was a curiosity that perhaps could have continued to collect dust on the shelf, though there may be some interest for theatre historians.
On a side note, this is not to be confused with the play of the same name which will be opening next year at the Hampstead Theatre. Richard Nelson’s Farewell To The Theatre is a play about Harley Granville Barker but is a piece of new writing, imagining him living in the US at the time of writing the actual Farewell To The Theatre when he was disillusioned with life post-divorce, watching WWI rage from across the ocean and needing to rediscover his love for the theatre. That is not the same as this. Just so we’re clear!