Theatre company tours Sussex with a fast-paced version of Wilde’s classic comedy

Sarah Slator
Sarah Slator

Upper Beeding-based This Is My Theatre company take their new version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest across Sussex on their biggest summer tour yet.

Hazel O’Neill, Ethan Taylor and Matthew Tweddle are the only actors in the new adaptation by Sarah Slator, company artistic director and founder.

Venues include: August 9 – St Andrew’s Church, Hove, 7.30pm; August 11 – Walled Garden, Tilgate Park, Crawley, 7pm (open-air); and August 12 – St Wilfrid’s Church, Church Norton, Selsey, 3pm and 7pm.

The production has been on the road alongside Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland featuring the same three actors on a tour that will take them to churches, open-air and historical venues across the county.

As Sarah says: “Ernest is Jack. Ernest loves Gwendolen but she doesn’t know he’s Jack. Algernon is also Ernest but he loves Cecily. Both Cecily and Gwendolen are particularly fond of the name Ernest, which is good for Ernest but is a problem for both Jack and Algernon. Then there’s Gwendolen’s mother and Algernon’s aunt, Lady Bracknell. She disapproves of everything... except cucumber sandwiches.”

Sarah is promising a fast-paced, one-act adaptation that will truly demonstrate, as Algernon/Ernest observes, “the truth is rarely pure and never simple”.

Sarah admits the adaptation took a little time: “It was about trying to work out how, but the way I have adapted it is very much as a farce, Oscar Wilde’s play is so brilliantly funny, and it is about bringing out that humour. The three actors play all the different characters in the scenes. It is all quick costume changes in front of the audience. Nothing is hidden. It is all shown as a way of highlighting the comedy and the costume changes.

“Hazel has a scene where it is just her on stage playing both Gwendolen and Ceciily, the two female leads having a conversation between them. She plays them both. You have to establish all the characters both physically and vocally, and then movement dictates who she is at that particular moment. It is all quite heavily choreographed – and then she takes a deep breath. She got a round of applause at the end when we did a preview in Brighton last year.

“Obviously it is an adaptation. There are moments that are reduced or cut down. The show runs to about an hour and ten minutes. We have taken quite a bit out of it to make it possible for lots of the venues to take it, especially the venues that are redundant churches, the venues that don’t have the facility to stage an interval. We create all the shows to be one act so that they can run straight through, which makes them easier to tour to the places we go to.

“Earnest was recommended to me by one of my friends. We were just chatting about various things as you do, and they mentioned had I thought about doing The Importance of Being Earnest. At that point, I was looking for something different and I just thought it would be a great one to do, and I instantly conceived it as a three-hander adaptation.”

Sarah set the company up a couple of years ago and is delighted at the way it has established itself quite so quickly.

“Hopefully in the future we can increase the tour area.

“We have started building up audiences in places that are asking for us to come back. We want to keep those people happy and keep them coming back to see what we are doing.

“We are going to be doing another Christmas tour and hopefully also looking towards touring next year again as well.”

For tickets visit www.thisismytheatre.com or call 07732 253311.

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