OUR special correspondent for the performing arts, Lady Augusta Bracknell, writes, “I hear the auguste (my little Wildean pun) Ballarat National Theatre is presenting ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’. I don’t know why this play continues to be popular, 111 years after I first appeared in it, as I myself have always had a particular reason for disliking the name of ‘Ernest’. Nonetheless, I felt it beholden on me to find out how this production is to be tackled which, I understand, the Company has had the temerity to arrange to be staged from Sunday 6th through to Saturday 12th of December at the Federation University’s Court House Theatre, SMB Campus Lydiard Street North. To decide whether or not I should sanction this latest revival, I deigned to put a few questions to Director, Mr. Hedley Thomson, viz: Why did you want to direct ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’?
Well, Lady Bracknell, I hesitate to say it, but I haven’t seen a production of ‘Earnest’ that I feel has made the most of the play’s many funny lines. Playgoers will be familiar with lines such as your own, “A handbag?” but there are actually hundreds of amusing lines peppering the script, so the challenge has been to bring out all of the humour. That is a not unsatisfactory answer. I myself, over the years, have felt my role has not been well appreciated. What relevance does a late 19th century Victorian play have for an early 21st century Ballarat audience? I believe the play has a lot to say to contemporary society on how and how not to behave, by highlighting aspects such as the hypocrisy and fakery often seen in people who occupy positions of high social status.
I hope you are not alluding to the English aristocracy, Mr. Thomson? Such aspersions may well affect my final assessment of your efforts to stage this play. Now to minor matters who has been cast as the main characters? The cast is a delightful and talented mixture of ‘newcomers’ and ‘old stagers’, Lady Bracknell. The ‘newcomers’ to BNT productions are Petea Stark (playing Cecily), Kristopher White (Algernon) and Laura Hudson (Gwendolen); then there’s Peter Vanderkley (Jack/ Earnest) who debuted in ‘Improbable Fiction’ last year and Lee Taylor (the butlers) who’s been in several BNT one act plays; and finally the ‘old stagers’: Christine Holmes (Miss Prism), Paul Rose (Dr. Chasuble) and Jane Gaylor (as yourself), who have done heaps with BNT. Hmmmm. After careful consideration, in view of the quality of the cast, I have decided entirely to overlook your criticisms of certain strata of English society and therefore I encourage all readers of ‘The Miner’ and of the community of Ballarat assembled to attend BNT’s production of ‘Earnest’.” Tickets can be booked by phoning 5338 5888 or at the door. See notice in The Miner’s advertisement section, visit the Ballarat National Theatre on facebook or http://www.bnt.org.au