“Oh, I don’t think I would care to catch a sensible man. I shouldn’t know what to talk to him about.”
“I wouldn’t want a sensible person to love me. I wouldn’t know what to talk about.”
So this is a combo Reading List post. Most of the literary-inspired webseries* I’ve seen have left me thinking I should read the book and so it was when I watched** In Earnest (created by Severe Chill Studios) which is adapted from Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest. However when I saw there was a production happening in London I thought it would be far better to see it performed than read it. Plays can be great reads but they were meant to be watched and heard. Not to mention this production starred David Suchet who, as an Agatha Christie fan, I practically idolise for playing and so embodying Hercule Poirot for 25 years! And so I went to it at the Vaudeville Theatre.
(Will contain some spoilers.)
I was introduced to In Earnest by the Literary-Inspired Webseries Awards (LIWA) created by the LIWCC. I could say I went and looked it up because I knew of Oscar Wilde’s skill at creating one-liners (which is a bit true) but in all honesty the main reason I looked it up was that I simply thought the walls decorated with vinyl records seen in the clips were incredibly cool. My idle curiosity was rewarded by a webseries that, while perhaps not overall one of my absolute favourites, at it’s best In Earnest was very good & very funny including costume theatre of Aunt Augusta that was a worthy successor to that of Mrs Bennet in the The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Many of the highlights involved ‘Algy’ (played by John Laurie), the role had such spectacular, relaxed eccentricity that it took me no time to get over the American context given to such a quintessentially British play. If it at times the series seemed somewhat to totally improbable it is easy to say that the original play is completely improbable itself and actually a fairly good job was made of modernising it without completely changing it and its ridiculousness. At the same time it did well in introducing a serious note to the story, adding more drama. It made the events much more touching and I cared far more about the characters.
The play by contrast was utter comedy never pausing to even consider being sensible. The laughs seemed at the very least every other line and practically the whole theatre laughed unself-consciously every time. The loudest laugh was at Cecily’s line: “You need hardly remind me of that,” in reply to Algernon pointing out he’d never written her any letters. The line may not seem much but the delivery was superb. In fact, the generally great delivery by the actors had a lot to do with the funniness of the play as it usually does in comedy. This scene also confirmed something I read in the Youtube comments of In Earnest: that this revelation about Cecily’s imagined romance and Algernon’s relatively easy acceptance of it, which is frankly a bit creepy in the webseries, is far less strange in the original where it is helped by the light-hearted nature and period context of the play. While I concede that I am biased towards David Suchet I do not think you will find many, if any, who would argue that his Lady Bracknell was not up to scratch. I was trying to find an appropriate adjective to convey just how I felt about his performance when I saw the word ’magnificent’ on a poster featuring a quote from a critic. It truly was absolutely magnificent. Given that the character takes quite a sideline role in the webseries (despite the aforementioned fabulous costume theatre) I was not really prepared for how great the character is and also cannot really compare. From Wilde’s famous one-liners which would put the Dowager Countess of Grantham*** to shame to little quirks of the head which all by themselves conveyed so much, it was brilliant. Though I had never heard before of Lady Bracknell being a drag role there is apparently a precedent for it and personally I was grateful for it because with all the make-up, dress, great hat and affected voice Suchet was far less recognisable and so it was hard to feel strange or that something was amiss about the lack of mannerisms, accent and signature moustache of a certain Belgian detective. In conclusion, the production was hilarious and David Suchet was magnificent.
*I go into more detail about what literary-inspired webseries are in my Reading List post about Nothing Much To Do here.
**Please note that I binge-watched In Earnest after it had finished airing and only saw episodes and Q&A videos not the whole transmedia experience.
***Whoop! Downton Abbey! Maggie Smith!