At the theatre: The Importance of Being Earnest

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I was lucky enough to get a reduced price ticket, and be wonderfully seated at the Vaudeville Theatre in London. I got the ticket on Leicester Square through tkts

The importance of being Earnest

I saw The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde, starring Penelope Keith, among a crowd of excellent actors. I loved the staging, the actors, and the great rhythm at which the play was acted.
Isn’t it amazing how even though you know exactly what’s going to happen, expect some of the lines, as you’ve heard them so often they still make you laugh? All the more so because you know them, perhaps?
A favourite one is the scene in which Mr Worthing has to admit he was found in a bag in the cloakroom of Victoria Station

Jack: Yes. The late Mr. Thomas Cardew, an old gentlemen of a kindly disposition found me and gave me the name of Worthing because he happened to have a first class ticket to Worthing at the time. Worthing is a place in Sussex. It’s a seaside resort.
Lady Bracknell: And where did this charitable gentlemen with the first class ticket to the seaside resort find you?
Jack: In a handbag.
Lady Bracknell: [closes eyes briefly] A handbag?
Jack: Yes, Lady Bracknell, I was in a hand bag. A somewhat large… black… leather handbag with handles… to it.
[pause]
Lady Bracknell: An ordinary handbag.
Lady Bracknell: And where did this Mr. James… or, Thomas Cardew come across this ordinary handbag?
Jack: The cloak room at Victoria Station. It was given to him in mistake for his own…
Lady Bracknell: [Shocked] The cloak room at Victoria Station?
Jack: Yes. The Brighton line.
Lady Bracknell: The line is immaterial.
[begins tearing up notes]
Lady Bracknell: Mr. Worthing. I must confess that I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred in a handbag, whether it have handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life which reminds one of the worst excesses of the French revolution, and I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to?

A delightful evening after a tiring day. My pedometer says I walked over 17,000 steps.

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13 thoughts on “At the theatre: The Importance of Being Earnest

  1. In view of your picture, I can only say “Chapeau!” for being so familiar with the play (how many French equivalents do I know? Erm… not a lot).

    The “handbag” line, as you may know, is a daunting challenge for any actress, because of the trademark delivery of it by Dame Edith Evans in the production that was filmed in 1953. She practically turned it into an operatic aria (I swear she runs through an entire octave), so each new production comes with the added PR interest – what will she do with That Line? See:
    http://arts.guardian.co.uk/theatre/drama/story/0,,2245343,00.html

    “Earnest” has also hit a topical mark unexpectedly. It was running in 1968, when major demonstrations outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square were rumoured to be the focus for serious revolutionaries with large ambitions. That night, the show came to a stop on Lady Bracknell’s line deploring the extension of higher education – “It will lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square”!

  2. Oh ho ho! Loved the quote. I last read The Importance of Being Earnest back in the sixties when I was an undergraduate English major. Loved it then. I’ll have to re-read it!
    AND an update on the mini-trampoline — which has arrived. Only it is NOT a mini-trampoline. It is a rebounding device, since it is parallel to the floor and meant only for bouncing/jumping and not for acrobatics. Evidently a true mini-trampoline is angled, and used by gymnasts to vault into the air as part of a performance.
    I last used one of these in the early 90s and it was a cheap one. This is a more expensive but better-made Needak, which folds. Easy to set up. Quite stable. I bounced for 5 minutes and broke a sweat. After the first few bounces I could feel my leg muscles in a way I do not feel them while either walking or using the elliptical machine on the highest level. I think this is good! Will report again after a few days of playing with this. This website has info for anyone interested — http://www.needak-rebounders.com
    Happy walking! I hope I will rack up that many steps when I am in Paris, to balance all the wonderful food I am looking forward to eating! 🙂

  3. Sounds like you’re having a great time in Jolly Ole England. Good for you! I’m sure you enjoyed this play and glad you got a ticket.
    I’ve been SO busy all week, haven’t had a chance to join the exercise group….hopefully, I’ll get to it soon.
    BOY, am I EVER looking forward to being in Paris in a short EIGHT weeks…..I already feel like I need a “break.” LOL
    Enjoy your trip!

  4. I haven’t seen the theatre production, but I’ve seen the movie on DVD and it was Judi Dench that delivered these lines. I laughed out loud everytime I watched it. Have thoroughly enjoyed Colin Firth as Jack and Rupert Everett as Algy. I’d love to see the stage production though. Lining up to buy discount theatre tickets at Leicester Square… your writing brings back fond memories to me!

  5. I love this post, and your links. Also the links from Autolycus and Sarah. All I read by Oscar Wilde were The Picture of Dorian Gray and De Profundis. Truly somber prose. It’s good to know that he could provide laughter, and maybe enjoy it himself.

  6. I do love Oscar Wilde’s writing! It is amazing how much walking you can do in a city. I remember years ago being reduced to house slippers by the evening (the restaurant didn’t even notice or were too polite to say) following a day walking in Paris.

  7. Thanks for taking me to the London Theatre. Reading about the “Hand Bag” was a treat.

    Your post got me thinking about the time Aaron and I were in London and had tickets for a play. (I wish I could remember what we saw)

    What I do remember about that night is that we had dinner at a very fine restaurant, meal took longer then we expected which made us late for the play.

    When we finally got there they ushered us backstage and eventually got seated.

    Funny, how you always remember the mishaps!

  8. Thrilling to read those lines, hysterical whether read, heard, or watched. A wonderful tonic, especially now in this terror zone where my cousin heard every shot Saturday night when the terrorist gunned down eight youths at the yeshiva in Jerusalem. Oh, the luxury of managing “contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life.” Of course, the author was a known rabid anti-Semite. Nothing is simple, especially when considering ourselves, the humans.

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