Performing the role of Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s much-loved The Importance of Being Earnest has become something of a theatrical rite of passage reserved for the finest of the theatrical elite. Following in the footsteps of Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Geoffrey Rush, who have each played the iconic role before him, Suchet, wide-eyed and pursed-lipped, visibly relishes the role and makes easy work of putting his own stamp on the snobbish Lady Bracknell.
While Suchet is undoubtedly at the heart of this performance, the rest of the cast, and especially the wildly funny Imogen Doel as Cecily Cardew, ensure he doesn’t steal the show. While some performances are stronger than others, overall the well-timed comedy and fresh interpretations of characters that may be very familiar to some of the audience, make this production of The Importance of Being Ernest at London’s Vaudeville Theatre well worth a watch. And with a live, UK and international cinema screening of the play planned for Thursday 8th October, anyone unable to make it to London’s West End will have the chance to see the play, as well as exclusive interviews with David Suchet and the director, Andrew Noble.
Becoming part of the growing trend for theatre, opera, music and ballet performances to be live-streamed for one exclusive night at UK cinemas is an interesting move for The Importance of Being Earnest. As Kim Poster of Stanhope Productions, who produced the play, says, ‘This is such a fantastic production we wanted to share it with as many people as possible around the country, and also across the world as the play will be screened internationally too. We hope it will be seen by many people who haven’t watched the play before as well as those who have seen it many times. Plus David Suchet is magnificent in the role of Lady Bracknell and will bring a new experience of the play to everyone!’
The trend for theatres to host a live-screening of selected plays has been unfolding rapidly in the UK in recent years, with NT Live’s launch in June 2009 being a landmark moment for cinema’s evolving role in the world of theatre. Audiences are becoming accustomed to being able to see the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet, Tom Hiddleston’s Coriolanus or David Tennant’s Richard II on-screen (each of which have held exclusive cinema showings). And while Shakespeare’s classics certainly tend to dominate the stage-to-screen world, it’s also a popular practice for opera, dance and music performances, and as The Importance of Being Earnest proves, all manner of theatrical genres.
Apart from making sold-out performances available to a wider audience, cinema screenings break down barriers of geography and cost. As Kim Poster says, ‘It’s a great way for people to watch high quality presentations of world-class culture that they may not be able to experience for reasons of location or cost if it wasn’t for the cinema screenings. I have filmed previous productions and the response from people all over the world – especially in countries which rarely have the chance to see live theatre – was so overwhelmingly positive that I will always hope in the future to bring my stage productions to the screen’.
By Edwina Boyd-Gibbins
Edwina Boyd-Gibbins is a freelance journalist, writer and publicist. She’s contributed to the likes of The Guardian and Stylist, and is a regular contributor to The Culture Trip. She’s passionate about all things cultural, and also writes about restaurants and recipes on her blog, All Things Nice.