The Importance of Being Earnest has enough twists, turns and one-liners to warrant its legendary status in the world of theatre but, if anything it was taken up a further notch as Newcastle University Theatre Society students cleverly produced their own version with the added sparkle of on-stage appearances by Oscar Wilde himself chatting in his own unique style with his pal Robbie Ross.

Let’s get it right from the start – this was a big success! Created for streaming and filmed at the Sunderland Empire with the auditorium as the backdrop the Newcastle University Theatre Society players gave a performance which was indeed worthy of being presented on such a famous stage.

This was not a professional performance and did not pretend to be – but it could have been! I have seen professional performances which certainly lacked the quality of this production.

Produced and directed by Adam Keenan who also wrote the extra dialogue, this was an ingenious drama. The conversational exchanges between Wilde and Ross neither interfered with or detracted from the general flow of Oscar’s original and thus we were treated to a play within a play – and it worked.

Individual performances? Well Leo MacNeill was a convincing Oscar and Conor O’Hara was a perfect foil as Robbie Ross. They worked well together and did not shirk the mannerisms of their day.

Likewise the characters of Algernon Moncrieff (Jay Robinson), Jack Worthing (Max Brennan), Gwendolen Fairfax (Bugsy Bannon), Cecily Cardew (Martha Watson), Lady Bracknell(Louisa Rimmer). Miss Prism (Ellie Denton), Dr Casuble (Harry Huggins), Merriman (Sean Kavanagh) and Lane (Finlay Worallo) all had sufficient dimensions to reach out both across the footlights and through the screen.

Backstage there was a formidable crew who ensured that this production was something that could even impress Oscar Wilde – and it would!

Profits from the show have been dedicated to Acting for Others, a worthwhile charity that does much to help aspiring actors.

Surely there must have been something to criticise? Well, yes, sadly there was.

I could not get an ice cream during the interval!

Well done Newcastle University Theatre Society – take a bow.

Bernard Bale

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