Review: The Importance of Being Earnest, Tara Arts

Two Gents reimagine Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest like never before at Tara Arts

“I remembered the line”

In so many ways, it is a real shame that it is only now, after Classic Spring’s year-long West End Oscar Wilde season, that we’re seeing theatre companies finally showing some real invention and daring in reinterpreting his work. For all their star-studded casts, these were largely faithfully traditional renditions that did little to stir any real excitement.

To be fair, these aren’t plays that lend themselves easily to being lifted out of their very specific social milieu. But equally, it is difficult to get too enthused about endless identikit revivals. Which is a long-winded way of saying I was most excited to go see Two Gents and Tara Arts’ production of The Importance of Being Earnest which remakes the show as a two-hander for 2 British-African women.

It’s an entirely fresh take and a bold move and its one which often pays dividends. Directors Arne Pohlmeier and Tonderai Munyevu don’t so much dismantle the fourth wall as never even acknowledge it ever existed (shy people should avoid the front row) and thoroughly reimagine the play in the kind of contemporary multicultural context that frankly deserves West End audiences.

Actors Ayesha Casely-Hayford and Kudzanayi Chiwawa revel in the bare-bones staging, sharing all the roles between them with a gleeful verve that is hard to resist as finally, someone clocks that Wilde’s humorous dialogue can and does speak to us in different ways. Commercial concerns aside, programming like this really ought to be the norm rather than the exception when it comes to the British theatrical canon.

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes 
Photos: Harry Elletson
The Importance of Being Earnest is booking at Tara Arts until 16th March

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