Sex swap in earnest;Set Play

16th April 1999 at 01:00
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST. Bolton Octagon. Lawrence Till is giving Oscar Wilde's comedy of Victorian manners a shake up.

He has chosen a more contemporary framework in which to set the conceits, deceits and confusions in the story. Jack loves Gwendolen, Algernon loves Cecily, but their fibs are a stumbling block and they must deal with the formidable Lady Bracknell, who is not all she seems.

"A hundred years on the story comes out as ordinary; it now reads like Somerset Maugham. the people who were watching the play in Wilde's time were being attacked, they were being trivialised," says Till.

So he has set himself the task of getting audiences to listen anew. The play is like Hamlet, audiences know the lines before the actors get to them. Till has, he says, begun to make the story more extraordinary.

"I decided it should be as difficult as possible for the actors to tell the story," he says.

so, the play's nine characters are played by seven actors and it is not a case of simply doubling up. It will begin with two actors coming on stage and apologising.

"Tonight won't be what you imagine," they will explain. "The actors who should be playing Cecily and Canon Chasuble have been arrested (for soliciting) and we've all been in the police station all afternoon trying to sort it out. At the moment it's just the two of us, the others will be turning up..."

As and when they turn up they will take on a role, but not necessarily the role they auditioned for, and they will not remain in that role. There will be lots of cross-dressing. One actor will be a stage manager and will dress his colleagues on stage.

"As we get into act three," Till says, "Jack, Algernon, Cecily and Gwendolen, the four lovers in the story, are all being played by men."

Not in pantomime fashion. The women will be played as convincingly as if they really were women.

Till will not keep the play in any one period. The idiosyncracies of each character will dictate their dress and period. Music is from the 40s and the 50s - and will be played on a 50s juke-box.

May 13-June 4, tel: 01204 520661.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today