Despite knowing Thornden well and visiting the Hall for numerous parents’ evenings, this was the first time I’d visited the Hall for a show.
The Importance of Being Earnest was being shown as a live broadcast of the performance taking place at the Vaudeville Theatre in the West End. There was a short interview with the production’s director, Adrian Noble, and a further short piece with David Suchet, playing the unforgettable Lady Bracknell, before the performance.
Both of these gave insights as to their thoughts on Oscar Wilde’s wonderful writing and wit. David Suchet’s insights into the difficulties and challenges of playing a female role were revealing, as was the fact he’d asked to wear a corset for this role!
The Importance of Being Earnest at Thornden Hall: 8th October 2015
I’m not going to give anything away about the plot of The Importance of Being Earnest but I would say now if you’ve not seen it, put it on your list of things to do. It is easily the funniest play I’ve ever seen but also one of the most amusing works of prose I’ve come across in any format. Any fan of P.G. Wodehouse would love Earnest for its wit and the main male characters would be very at home in the Drones’ Club and would be the sort of men about town Bertie Wooster would be friends with.
Thornden Hall in Chandler’s Ford
I had a wonderful evening out at Thornden Hall. The show was great and the Hall comfortable with good visibility all around. To be able to watch a West End production without having the hassle of going to the West End is a great idea and the Hall means we have such a facility on our doorsteps.
The team at Thornden Hall are keen to make the Hall better known as an entertainment venue and it deserves to be. The Hall was about half full for this show. There should have been a sellout. Both the venue and the show deserved that.
The Hall has excellent facilities. I was also impressed with the bar but not for the reasons you might think, honestly! My soft drink (again, honestly!) was significantly cheaper than the standard pub or cinema/theatre, the bar staff were helpful and the main thing to remember is no glass is allowed inside the Hall. They generally use plastic glasses which you can take into the Hall with you.
There’s also a small but nice range of ice-creams, crisps, nuts etc. Toilets are excellent and kept up together well. The Hall seats are comfortable and there is nowhere without a good view. This is really important for someone like me who is under 5’ and who dreads having her view blocked by someone tall!
The range of shows offered by the Hall is impressive. Thornden Hall will be showing Hamlet (with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role) today (15th October 2015). I cannot imagine a greater contrast in mood from a romantic farce (Wilde) to the moody Dane (Shakespeare). Thornden Hall really are catering for most tastes!
Oscar Wilde was born on 16th October 1854. He was one of three legitimate children (though his younger sister died very early) and he had illegitimate brothers and sisters (two of whom sadly died in a fire).
Wilde’s writing talent took off when he was at Oxford where he won the Newdigate prize for his poem, “Ravenna”.
Although widely known because of his homosexuality, Wilde did marry and have children though the marriage broke up after the scandal with Lord Alfred Douglas broke and Wilde was jailed in Reading. His wife took the children to Switzerland and adopted the name Holland. Wilde died in Paris in November 1900, effectively broken by the scandal.
Although best known for The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde was a novelist too with The Picture of Dorian Grey still in print now. Importance was clearly an important theme to him given another of his other renowned plays was A Woman of No Importance! Lady Windermere’s Fan and An Ideal Husband are also still produced.
The Importance of Being Earnest remains Wilde’s best known work and with good cause. The script is fresh, the plot vibrant and the humour has not dated as the romantic comedy theme is one that all ages can identity with.
The page of notes given to explain the play were useful and I found it incredible that the first performance of this play was on 14th February 1895 at St. James’ Theatre, London.
Some of Wilde’s more literary turns of phrase would be edited out if he were writing this play today and that would be a shame to put it mildly. The joy of his language and the way he plays with it makes this play special. I cannot think of many playwrights who manage to finish their work with the title of their play and it isn’t out of place. It is such a stylish ending.
I discovered most of the Wilde quotes I know come from this play.
To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune…to lose both seems like carelessness.
No married man is ever attractive except to his wife.
The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public.
All women become like their mother. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.
You are perfectly right in making some slight alteration. Indeed, no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.
Oscar Wilde’s quote “I have nothing to declare but my genius” is hardly modest but on the strength of Earnest is well merited. Of course Wilde became not just famous but infamous (a rare achievement which does not generally bring happiness to the person achieving that unfortunate double). He was jailed for his homosexuality in 1895, being released two years later. His Ballad of Reading Gaol was published in 1898 and was his last work. The scandal meant Earnest only had 86 performances initially but it has been revived many times since, the first one being a year after Wilde’s death in 1900.
The theme of Earnest? Be yourself!
The play is in 3 Acts broken by 2 intervals of 15 minutes each. This worked brilliantly for loo and refreshment breaks. The play is very fast moving and I found I was eagerly waiting for the next witty line, the next scene, not wanting to miss a thing, which is always a good sign.
For me, David Suchet is the definitive Poirot, the same way Jeremy Brett was the definitive Sherlock Holmes.
Lady Bracknell is the first female role David Suchet has played and he was brilliant at it. Frankly her ladyship is a gorgon and that was brought wonderfully to life by him. I should imagine though it must be something of a relief to get out of costume after each performance.
If you get the chance to see this production, go. You will laugh out loud and have a wonderful time.
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