The Importance Of Being Ernest

by Oscar Wilde

Produced and directed by Michael Patterson

Performed in the open air at

Mottisfont Abbey

on

21st and 30th July 1994

Some notes by the Director

The Importance of Being Earnest is undoubtedly regarded as Oscar Wilde's most celebrated play, and as so often happens with artistic creativity the play was conceived at a time of stress and distraction for its creator.

Wilde was virtually driven out of London in the summer of 1894 to obtain sufficient peace to be able to write a successor to Lady Windermere's Fan and A Woman of No Importance, both of which had been successfully premiered in London. His extravagant lifestyle had left him in debt, and he had already accepted an advance from the publisher for his new play. More disturbing to his charming and gregarious nature were the increasingly vehement attacks on him by the Marquess of Queensbury, father of Lord Alfred Douglas, (“With my own eyes I saw you both in the most loathing and disgusting relationship as expressed by your manner and expression”.. Queensbury wrote). Oscar initiated libel proceedings against him, and fled to Worthing with his wife and family. The words flowed from his pen and the play was completed in less than three weeks .... just 100 years ago from this Mottisfont production.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

One of Oscar Wilde's ploys to point up the nonsense and deflating wit of the play was in his choice of names. Worthing, its birthplace, is commemorated in John Worthing, whereas Bracknell is the last place a real Lady would come from. The celibate but unfulfilled rector, Dr Chasuble, is a play on chase-able... but what of "Prism"? The two butlers were originally called Lane and Mathews to immortalise Wilde's displeasure with the publishers of that name, but magnanimously he relented. "Jack" Worthing ('There is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all. It does not thrill" says Gwendolen) pokes fun at Jack Bloxham, a would-be aesthete friend at Oxford whose publication The Chameleon survived only one edition. And is it too fanciful to suppose that (Al)gernon (Mon)crieff is derived from (Al)fred (Mon)tgomery, Bosie's family name? A list of names in a Military Directory at the end of the play includes “Maxbohm" - a private joke of Oscars with Max Beerbohm (who proclaimed the play a masterpiece). Finally, it appears that Oscar noted with delight the anniversary of another bit of nonsense when Royal Assent had been given in 1794 to a Bill "exempting the poor from personal labour in the repair of the highways" - introduced by Sir Charles Bunbury.

Its all just the importance of being earnest, sorry, Earnest!


Cast (in order of appearance)
Algernon Moncreiff Robbie Carnegie
Lane, his manservant Harry Tuffill
Hon. John Worthing J.P. Alec Walters
Lady Bracknell Marian Westbury
Gwendolen Fairfax Belinda Drew
Cecily Cardew Kate Atkinson
Miss Prism Hazel Burrows
Rev Canon Chasuble D.D. Albie Minns
Merriman, the butler Bruce Atkinson
Footman John Lanasis
Pianist Bruce A’Kinovitsch

 

For the Maskers
Produced and Directed By Michael Patterson
Set Design Ken Spencer
Set Construction Geoff Cook, Ken Spencer, Chris Finbow
Lighting Ron Tillyer
Sound Lawrie Gee
Properties Kirsten, Irene & Douglas Shiell
Wardrobe Christine Baker
Stage Management Angie Barks, Julia Campone, Louisa Booth, David Jupp
Electrical Installation Clive Weeks
Front of House Manager Ken Spencer
Bar Manager Pam Cook
Poster Design John Hamon

 

 

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Alec Walters and Robbie Carnegie
Belinda Drew and Alec Waters
Robbie Carnegie and Marian Westbury
Alec Waters and Belinda Drew
Alec Walters, Bruce Atkinson and Robbie Carnegie
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Established 1968

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