I suppose I should, with less than a week to go, go on about The Shakespeare Delusion but I've gone over that so many times, it's not news. It's on next week, book tickets, ya-da-ya-da-ya-da. So, I thought I'd post about some of the non-Milk Bottle productions I'm involved in. At present I'm reacquainting myself with a play I've loved ever since I first appeared in it in 2001 - the delightful The Importance of Being Earnest - which I happen to be in. It isn't perhaps something I should admit publicly, but think I was possibly born to play Algernon Moncrieff. He's a self obsessed glutton with few moral scruples and I would hate to think I were that bad. However, the part does slip on me like a well worn and insanely comfortable pair of shoes.
I first essayed Algernon when I was but a youth, back for the summer from University. It was September and term was about to begin again. And on Tuesday 11th September we had our dress rehearsal. I remember discussing the terrible events of the day before getting into the dressing room and on stage to eat a lot of muffin. The run was, a recall, well attended. I have wondered whether we picked up audience because people wanted to escape to a safer world. But then again, Earnest is rarely poorly attended.
I'm acting in this production for my local amateur company, the Lavenham Players, partly because it keeps the juices flowing, partly because it's good for business, but largely because I'd happily play in Earnest at least once a year anywhere that it came up.
I was chatting with a friend who has directed a number of Wilde's plays and we got onto the subject of the content of the plays. That of the four plays that deal with society Earnest is the one with the least content - that unlike the other three, which are dramas with some wit, Earnest is only interested in laughs. I couldn't agree with that. The play is a satire and it's razor sharp. It is also very fun, light and frothy. It is an example of a play that can be both a deeply subversive work - full of class satire and gay subtext - and a play that middle England will sit down and happily enjoy. I forget the name of the fictional aunt that Terence Rattigan claimed he wrote plays for, but it's something very much for her.
Perhaps there is an argument that we shouldn't be reviving such staples of the repertoire so often - unless we have something new to say about it. I've been involved in four productions in thirteen years and that's without really hunting the play out. But it still delights, it still sells and, frankly, if I can't be involved in a revival of the odd classic amongst the dozens of other new works I'm creating, then life would be very dull indeed.
Earnest aside I'm also in two other community productions this year. I'm doing a bit of Shakespeare in June, a compilation show called Shakespeare Undressed which has been great fun to rehearse so far. A bit of Benedick, some Fool, some Robin Goodfellow and home in time for tea. And in November I'm performing in Waiting For Godot - but that's a whole other blog post.