Leeds Playhouse. September 8th, 2022.
ETT, touring company
‘… an evening of much needed light relief with accomplished and energetic performances…’
It can’t have been the easiest of gigs for the actors, taking to the stage for the premiere of The Importance of Being Earnest moments after the death of the Queen had been announced followed by a minute’s silence. But undaunted the actors embraced the challenge like true professionals and masters of their craft, immediately transporting the audience away to Victorian London. A cast of black actors in stunning Victorian dress ensured that the audience was treated to an evening of much needed light relief with accomplished and energetic performances, an ingenious stage set, dramatic lighting and well-choreographed, seamless, dance routines which served to reinforce the farcical nature of the play. It would be unfair to single out any one performance above any other as all the actors were exceptional. This was a truly ensemble piece, a cast comfortable with one another and intent on ensuring a memorable production greater than the sum of its parts.
The Director of the play Denzel Westley-Sanderson, said in an interview that he was intent on showing that wealthy black Victorians existed, despite so often being ignored in British history. He also expressed his desire that: ‘we laugh together and share a truly joyous experience. That’s what we all need at the moment isn’t it?’ The Company certainly delivered, providing lots of laughs and a joyous evening and Denzel could have had no idea of how prophetic his words were going to be.
The farce was first performed in 1895, shortly before Wilde’s incarceration for his homosexual relationship with Lord Alfred Douglass. The father of Wilde’s young lover, The Marquess of Queensberry, had planned to disrupt the show but Wilde was tipped off and The Marquess was refused admission, thwarting his attempts to disrupt the play and to humiliate Wilde in the process. The show went on then and I have to say that I felt it the right decision that the play also went on at The Leeds Playhouse.
The play is on tour around the UK until November.