Immersive theatre is having a bit of a moment. From large scale productions like Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man, to intimate dining experiences based on popular sitcoms and star-studded Shakspeare at The Bridge Theatre; there’s an immersive show to suit everyone. With theatre tickets not getting cheaper, audience members are looking for shows that will give them something extra, theatre that they can experience, that puts the audience at the heart of the show.
The latest production from theatre company Say It Again, Sorry? does just that. Directed by Simon Paris, The Importance of Being… Earnest? is a play within a play. The shows ‘theatre company’ Simon Slough Productions are producing a new version of The Importance of Being Earnest to celebrate the play’s 125th birthday. Trouble ensues when the actor playing Earnest (listed in the programme as Brad Pitt) fails to show up, leaving the cast, crew, and director Simon (Tom Cray) in the lurch. Luckily for Simon, there is a suitable replacement for Brad Pitt in an unsuspecting audience member and the play can continue. However, the recasting of Earnest is (surprise, surprise) not the only misfortune to occur. Over the two hour long show the audience is delighted by scripts disappearing, drunk/absent/difficult actors and various technological difficulties.
The Importance of Being… Earnest? has elements of farce and is filled with classic actor tropes and in-jokes including quips about Meisner and actor’s marks, which are particularly funny to any theatre-types in the audience. There are strong comedic performances from all the cast, particularly Rhys Tees as Graham and Guido Garcia Lueches as Terry, who consistently keep the energy of the production up and the audience on side. The actors make good use of the space, and a large number of audience members are involved which is impressive considering they are a small cast of just seven.
The plot and gaffs in The Importance of Being… Earnest? are quite predictable and at some points overdone or drawn out without much development. Additionally, at times towards the end of the performance, the show relies too much on the novelty of audience members on stage as a point of humour. It may not be the best piece of theatre in London at the moment, but the show is full of energy and charm.
The show has a relaxed (despite the possibility of being called up to tread the boards), youthful energy, partly due to its hip venue, The Pleasance Theatre. Watching The Importance of Being… Earnest?is easy, and certainly very fun.
The Importance of Being… Earnest? played The Pleasance Theatre on 15 July. For more information, visit the Say It Again, Sorry? website.