Theatre-lovers in for a unique, interactive, riotous twist on Oscar Wilde farce

The hugely popular play, The Importance of Being… Earnest? – unique for its interactive, riotous twist on Oscar Wilde’s famed farce – comes to Peterborough’s Key Theatre this month.
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Creative director Simon Paris shares insight into what audiences can expect from this phenomenally critically acclaimed show from February 16-18.

What makes The Importance of Being… Earnest? different from a typical performance of Oscar Wilde’s classic farce?

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Our version of Earnest is very different in that we are presenting a traditional take of the play until the lead actor playing Ernest Worthing fails to arrive. The director then casts a real audience member, gets them into a microphone and costume, and they play Ernest for the whole show. Throughout the show, the rest of the cast drop out one by one and are all replaced with audience members. It is completely as mad as it sounds.

The Importance of Being Earnest ?The Importance of Being Earnest ?
The Importance of Being Earnest ?

How did you first come up with the concept? 

…Earnest? came about through the idea of offering unsuspecting audience members the chance to step out of their comfort zone, take a risk and become a star. We have noticed that the audience members who decide to volunteer to perform in our show become local legends for the rest of the festival and are regularly spotted by other audience members.

How do you keep the audience members ‘on script’? 

Audience members generally read what’s on the script - if they have any script at all. And if not, the cast are incredibly gifted at accepting and embracing the wonderful curveballs that the audience members often throw at them. We don’t particularly have an exact show we are trying to recreate every night, rather, we offer audience members opportunities to shine and when they do, it feels like real magic is created.

The Importance of Being... Earnest?The Importance of Being... Earnest?
The Importance of Being... Earnest?

What's the most unexpected performance an audience member has given?

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There's always something unique, weird and wonderful about every show we do, but sometimes we do get someone who really goes out on a limb. We once had a man attempt to deliver his lines while crawling underneath Lady Bracknell's skirt. We've had random mass singalongs to Queen and audience members spontaneously kiss mid-scene.

Do audience members have to get involved if they’d prefer not to?

All of the audience participation in …Earnest? Is completely voluntary. The show is equally fun to get up on-stage, as it is to watch others volunteer and join the fun.

If Oscar Wilde were to come and see your play, what do you think he would make of it?

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I think Oscar would relish in artists taking his work and having fun with it in the most irreverent way possible. I’m sure he’d walk out of the theatre and say some incredibly droll one-liner.

Why should audiences come to see The Importance of Being... Earnest?

If there was one reason to come to our show, it's to see our lead actor's performance. Believe me, the person playing Ernest is a real hidden talent, a star in the making. They're going to blow you away... once we find out who they are.

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