Subversive wit? A satire of Victorian morality, with a distinctly homoerotic undertone? If you haven’t guessed it I might add the name ‘Bunbury’ or, better still, the immortal line: “A handbag?”
Yes, it’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde’s genius farce, which this month comes to the Barbican in an operatic refashioning that promises to be inventive, exuberant and anarchic.
To recap for those who haven’t read the play since school, Jack and his friend Algernon are in love with Gwendolen and Cecily, but there is some confusion over which of the two young gentleman is called Earnest – a name both girls are very fond of, and something a romantic deal breaker. Meanwhile the fearsome Lady Bracknell, Gwendolen’s mother and aunt to Algernon, strongly disapproves.
This adaptation by Gerald Barry was first performed as a concert, winning a Royal Philharmonic Society Award, before being staged as modern-dress production by Ramin Gray for the Royal Opera House in 2013.
Now back for its second London season, cucumber sandwiches, smashed plates and megaphones are set to be the order of the day, all set to a hyperactive score that includes surreal variations of Beethoven and ‘Auld Lang Syne’.
The Importance of Being Earnest
29 March–3 April
Barbican, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS