THEATRE : Outing Earnest
Importance of Being Earnest On tour
Monday 27 March 1995
There is a natural affinity between a drag act and the gorgon dowager of The Importance of Being Earnest. Just as Dame Edna manages simultaneously to stand for the most fortressed suburban bigotry and to produce outrageous cathartic anarchy, so Lady Bracknell delivers herself of some weirdly subversive opinions in the cadences of serene reactionary dogmatism.
The ambiguity of both characters is neatly highlighted by the gender- confusion of female impersonation.
Hinge and Brackett did it, so did Jonathan Hyde at the Glasgow Citizens; now donning the plumage is "Bette" Bourne in Nicholas Wright's intelligent, entertaining production for English Touring Theatre.
In so far as it is possible to give an understated performance as a drag- act Lady Bracknell, Bourne does. His long painted worm of a mouth reminds you of Dame Edna's, and could easily curl in her kind of cartoon disgust. Instead, it confines itself to some subtle crimping. And he clears that Becher's Brook of the role, the line "A handbag?", at a novel angle, annunciating it in the sceptical tones of someone trying to cope with a lunatic. In a way, his dignified Bracknell is less camp than Maggie Smith's was: he converts her not into a travesty "turn" but (pace Quentin Crisp) into one of the stately homos of England.
What "outing" is to the real world, "decoding" is to the world of plays, as you can see in the current sexually explicit Design for Living. Though it is full of cryptic campery, Importance does not allow for such systematic uncloseting. But the decadence of Algernon's dcor in Lucy Hall's set, not to say the overt queeniness of Charles Edwards's excellent Algernon, tip the wink that there may be more than one kind of double life that can be pursued by dint of "Bunburying".
The production achieves this without compromising the sunniness and blithe irresponsibility of this comic masterpiece.
n Tour details: 01270-501800
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Salisbury ranked seventh-best city in the world to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015
- 2 Disney announces new female-led film Moana
- 3 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake online report claiming artist's identity has been revealed
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Jose Manuel Barroso warns David Cameron against making 'historic mistake' over immigration reforms
Worst Airports of 2014: Poll names Islamabad airport in Pakistan worst in the world