Article Title:Reimagining Earnest
Author or Credit:Jacqui Stanford
Published on:27th August 2014 - 04:49 pm
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Story ID:15630
Text:Take one ingeniously witty Oscar Wilde play, set it in 1950s London, add an all-male cast and Cher’s greatest hits, and you have an utterly gay imagining which its director advises is “The Importance of Being Earnest like you’ve never seen before”. Moustachioed Brit Benjamin Henson, who moved to New Zealand and started his own company Fractious Tash, was behind an all-male take on Shakespeare’s Titus last year, which featured teddy bears, cupcakes with sparklers and boys kissing boys dressed as girls. Benjamin Henson With Earnest, the members of the all-male cast are all playing men. “And we’ve spliced it with some of the hits of Cher. With a live female band performing and the boys singing live as part of the show,” Henson says. Henson says he’s not sure Wilde would have thought but believes “he definitely would have been a huge Cher fan. And I definitely think that anything that will celebrate a more liberal view to relationships, specifically with the lens that we’ve put on the production of same-sex relationships, then I think he would have been all in favour of that to be honest.” He was inspired to give the play a twist after talking with people who had bad memories of “really terrible uptight, frosty versions” of The Importance of Being Earnest. “I just thought that was a real tragedy because the play is so amazing. It’s so funny. The majority of the jokes still stand to the test of time. So to be able to see this great comedy, but in a new way, so we could start to re-evaluate all the comedy in it and for us to hear these jokes again.” There is plenty of subtext in the play already and Henson says the moment he pointed that out in rehearsals “suddenly it was like a light had just been switched on. They would find all of these things that they’d never heard before. I mean some of the lines are worthy of a Carry On film.” A snap from rehearsals As you can imagine, rehearsals have been fun. “Between singing the songs … by the time they’re singing The Shoop Shoop Song, which is just a great way to start any morning I think, and finding all of the comedy,we’ve just been laughing the whole time. It’s been a joy. It’s been fantastic.” Henson says the aim is for people to get an experience of the 1950s gay world. He says the research they carried out yielded some shocking findings, “that for those guys in the 1950s, you could go to prison for the same crime Oscar Wilde went to prison for. There was still imprisonment for same-sex sex acts.” It wasn’t till 1967 that this was abolished in the UK for men over 21, while New Zealand didn’t catch up until the 80s, with moves in the 60s and 70s to do so both rejected. “All of that, we found quite harrowing. And trying to find a language whereby these guys are telling the story of the Importance of Being Earnest, because that celebrates being able to propose to the one that you love, has given the whole piece a real lift. So we hope that people actually take away an evaluation of how lucky we are to have acceptance nowadays.” Featuring Stephen Butterworth, Jordan Mooney, Andrew Ford, Oscar Wilson, Jordan Selwyn, Eli Mathewson, Cole Jenkins and David Sutherland, Earnest plays at the Q Theatre Loft 27 - August - 6th September. Details and tickets here   Jacqui Stanford - 27th August 2014    
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