The Importance Of Being Earnest, Old Vic, Bristol
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Tuesday 17 May 2005
Fancy a gay-sex farce? Then look no further than this ultra-camp all-male production of Oscar Wilde's comedy. The programme has a po-faced essay entitled "the importance of queering Earnest". It explains that the play's sexual subtext has hitherto been ignored, and that Earnest and Cecily, names of characters in the play, were gay Victorian code; that the social deception known as "Bunburying" speaks for itself; and that the chatter about eating muffins and getting butter on your cuffs is deeply suggestive - butter being a lubricant.
David Fielding, who directs and designs, has "outed" the show, painting the whole thing pink. The girls could all do with a shave, and a soundtrack of suitable hits, such as "Tainted Love", are squeezed in between each act.
There is, of course, something deeply camp about the play, its layers of meaning making the comedy almost endlessly suggestive. That's its genius. But the effect here is a bit like a Little Britain sketch - the one where two huge, corseted dames insist "we are ladies!". Of the weirder re-interpretations, the character of the twittering Miss Prism is oddest. She is built like a navvy, and carries a cane with which she thrashes her own flanks, sucking her knuckles with ecstasy.
Lady Bracknell seems doubly monstrous in the form of the splendid Michael Fitzgerald who handbags her relatives into submission from beneath a truly hideous hat. Christopher Staines' Jack minces for England in a blazer and plenty of eyeliner. Algernon (James Frost) is clearly glad to be gay.
Of the girls, Simon Trinder's Gwendolen is a riot of pouts and knowing looks - the funniest of a mixed-ability cast. The wigless Cecily's (Joseph Chance) sideburns I found a bit off-putting.
This gender-bending night out has a topsy-turvy air of Lewis Carroll about it - which isn't inappropriate for such a surreal play. As a visual assault on the chuckle muscles it works a treat. But the play's language - the puns, paradoxes and non-sequiturs - gets batted about without any real impact. There should, also, be some poignancy in the last act - a saga of lost babies and personal revelations.
By screaming out what the author smuggled between the lines, the evening becomes exhaustingly blatant. Wilde would have enjoyed the unfettered campery of it all - but not the clunks in the delivery.
To 28 May (0117-987 7877)
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 Iain Duncan Smith's expenses credit card is suspended after he runs up £1,000 debt to taxpayer
- 3 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 4 French woman dies in freak bungee jumping accident
- 5 Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck to divorce and end their 10-year marriage
Top Gear: Former co-host James May to present new BBC2 car show
The Rolling Stones announce biggest ever touring rock exhibition with Saatchi Gallery
Glastonbury 2015: The best bits you missed from Lionel Richie and the Dalai Lama to The Libertines' secret set
Glastonbury 2015: The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author EL James' Twitter Q&A didn't exactly go as planned
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
Tunisia beach attack: How can British Muslims respond to the latest outrages?