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Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 16 Nov

For the Citizens’ to produce two plays simultaneously around Oscar Wilde might be

regarded as carelessness. But it works. While The Trials of Oscar Wilde has a contemporary relevance that goes far beyond attitudes to homosexuality,

this Earnest helps to remind us of work that will remain watchable for generations hence. Jon Pope’s docu-drama centres on the

courtroom battles of Wilde, first in fighting the libel case over the Marquis of Queensbury’s imputations

of his sexuality, then the criminal charges in two separate trials brought when he lost the case.

Trapping us in the tiny stalls studio, the two actors,

one in contemporary dress, the other in Victorian

garb which eventually also becomes contemporary,

create an atmosphere of continual, grinding tension. Pope’s direction brings out many of the

absurdities of the period’s attitudes to sexuality, but

this, for me is not the central source of drama. In using direct transcripts of the trial, the play

provides an insight into how a system can break a butterfly upon a wheel. But the most striking issue is the underlying interrogation of attitudes to class.

still to answer. Tight and beautifully crafted performances by Anne Marie Timoney and James Duke set off a night of taut entertainment. Meanwhile, Giles Havergal’s Importance of Being

It could equally be applied to our own society, that,

liberalised in respect of attitudes to sexuality, still maintains a draconian and largely unseen apartheid between classes. Much of the distaste registered in

Wilde’s cross examiners relates not to issues of dirty bed linen in hotel rooms, but how a man of Wilde’s class could possibly be believed to freely associate with newspaper vendors and valets. Among the mineral waters and laptops of a

contemporary set, there are questions our culture is



Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 16 Nov .000


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Earnest amounts to an intelligent and cleverly crafted repertory piece. I need barely retell the tale of the travails of Jack (Stuart Bowman) and Algernon‘s (Jay Manley) courtships of Gwendolen (Lorna McDevitt) and Cecily (Vivien Reid), or of their battles with the formidable Lady Bracknell (Ellen Sheean). Suffice to say that Havergal has chosen to play the piece as camp rather than queer, which given recent queer theory interpretations, and the

Wilde things

various theatrical experiments that have surrounded this school of thought, brings us back in contact with something refreshing for its resort to tradition.

Kenny Miller’s design creates a lovely garden full of falling blossoms to contrast with the Victorian grandeur of the early townhouse scenes, and there are strong performances from Bowman and Manley, setting off the respective stern hypocrisy and gaudy frivolity of their characters. Sheean’s Lady Bracknell is more psychologically robust than grandly unsinkable, and is more enjoyable for that.

(Steve Cramer)

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