WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2
WHERE?: Online and available from 19 April to 4 May 2021
WHEN?: 24 April 2021
HOW?: Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield and Dukes Theatre, Lancaster production
RUNTIME: 73 minutes
Gurjeet Singh (pictured above) may be familiar from Channel 4’s school drama Ackley Bridge and here he plays struggling actor and vlogger Ernest/Jamil who is desperate to break into the world of acting success.
- Read on for reasons including the connection between this and award-winning musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
The Importance Of Being Earnest is undoubtedly Oscar Wilde’s best-loved work and this adaptation by EastEnders’ writer Yasmeen Khan is far more successful than the online updated version of The Picture Of Dorian Grey that we reviewed recently.
Wilde’s work lends itself to modern-day adaptations because often this once-married man now leading a homosexual life at a time in the late 19th century when it was against the law was writing material that could be viewed through a gay lens despite making no reference to the subject.
His material was often wafer-thin, far from the intense world-building of novels and boxsets popular now, relying mostly on well-constructed observations and farce.
Earnest is about a man who leads one life in the city and quite another in the country and what happens when those worlds collide and here this notion is well explored by its northern England setting and British Asian members of its cast.
It retains some of Wilde’s zingers but Khan is not overawed by them and contributes some marvellous 21st century quips of her own including the rib-tickler: ‘Would you do me the honour of going to Nando’s with me?’
We last saw star/director Mina Anwar in the West End in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie as well as the original Sheffield Crucible Theatre production in 2017 and she’s on fire here as Ms Begum who plays a role in uncovering Jamil’s origins in a ‘holdall from Huddersfield’ rather than the handbag from the original Wilde.
We last saw Harriet Thorpe in Sleepless: A Musical Romance at the Troubadour, Wembley Park Theatre, and here she’s having a ball literally phoning it in on Zoom as Jamil’s forgetful and rude theatrical agent Alison.
The Miss Prism character from the original play is re-imagined as a feng shui consultant with a fondness for slipping 80s TV gameshow catchphrases into her consultations including ‘Can I have a P please, Bob?’ and ‘Let’s have a look at what you could have won’.
The northern humour is present throughout and the accents are a delight particularly when uttering the occasionally sweary banter including: ‘I’ve been manifesting like a b***ard.’
Singh was 1 of the unsung heroes of Ackley Bridge and here provides a strong central presence in a series of ridiculous situations as things grow even more bizarre around him.
We can’t wait for the West End to re-open next month but in the meantime online co-productions like this from the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield and Dukes Theatre, Lancaster, have been warmly welcomed.