Punctuation can make all the difference and can be incredibly important when it comes to naming something, after all it is punctuation that takes a classic story by Oscar Wilde and gives it a new title in the case of this production. And with an ellipsis and a question mark, Wilde’s story of nobility’s search for entertainment and escape from triviality becomes Say It Again Sorry’s ‘The Importance of Being… Earnest?’, a show that takes the story and twists it, mixes it deliciously with a play within a play concept and adds in lashes of audience interaction pushed to the extreme, resulting in hilarity.
What would happen if a company’s lead actor failed to show up? Understudy? Cancel the show? No, not happening. Here, the correct answer is… grab a random audience member, mic them up and get them to play the part instead!
That is the premise here, the audience are a part of the show just as much as the cast are, and as we witness the Say It Again Sorry cast playing a fictional theatre troupe attempting to stage ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, we as an audience become more and more involved.
Cast members drop like flies, there are mid show auditions to fill in the gaps, props go wrong, scripts are mismatched, the director’s angry, the stage manager can’t get a word in, one actor is playing multiple parts, and another is so determined to stick to his blocking that questionable choices are made.
This was one show that I saw at last year’s fringe that I simply had to return to this time around, and the reason behind that decision was twofold. One, this company is hilarious, from the very start, and you are instantly drawn in by their warm and welcoming nature. Two, this show is completely different every single time. You never know who is going to be pulled from the audience and how they are going to react as the chaos unfolds around them. It’s always a surprise, that’s what makes it special, so much so that I actually ended up seeing this one twice in the 6 days I was at the fringe.
Guido Garcia Leuches and Rhys Tees play Graham and Terry playing Lane and Algernon respectively, and they are a brilliantly funny double act. Tees Graham gets thrown in at the deep end, desperately trying to hold it together whilst playing multiple parts whilst Leuches Terry doesn’t do improvising, he has his script, and he is sticking to it no matter what. A glance to each other or a confused look out to the audience is enough to earn a laugh. Director Simon, played by Tom Bulpett (who as a previous Chris Bean in The Play That Goes Wrong is no stranger to the role of a director with a ‘slight’ anger problem) has the audience in stitches as he shouts orders and runs around trying to keep the show running as smoothly as possible.
Trynity Silk plays Jen playing Gwendolyn, giving a masterclass in physical comedy in the rollercoaster that her character is made to ride with Harriet Earle’s Eleonor playing Lady Bracknell’s interaction with those willing volunteers who join in are charming and funny. Brendan Barclay joins the cast as stage manager Josh, constantly bossed around by Simon. He quickly earns the support of the audience who are more than willing to cheer him on.
The entire cast showcase a wonderful skill for improvisation, never knowing what is going to happen with their volunteers. When literally anything could happen, this tight knit team still somehow manage to pull off a show that is slick, polished, and seemingly effortless and at the shows finale they are met with rapturous applause. It really isn’t a surprise that this production proved so popular, with everyone leaving the venue with huge smiles on their faces. A smash hit.
If you would like to see this five star comedy, you can catch ‘The Importance of Being… Earnest?’ out on tour soon. Tour dates can be found here https://www.theatre-news.com/news/UK/102571/The-Importance-of-Being-Earnest-announces-first-large-scale-UK-tour