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The Importance of Being Honest – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review

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The Importance of Being Honest – until September 06, 2014 @ 1pm (doors at 12.50pm)

As you may have guessed, this is a sequel of sorts to one of Oscar Wilde’s most famous works ‘The Importance of being Earnest’. In this production, Gwendolen and Cecily meet twenty years after the events of the original play. We get to see how their lives have evolved since those tender moments of first love. They are now both respectable married women, one living in the city and the other in the country, and both have children of their own.

Cecily Moncrief (played by Noelle Borwn) is quite a bohemian figure, inflicted with modernity according to Gwendolen. She is interested in arts and crafts, along with spiritualism and dance. When Gwendolen (Billie Traynor) calls unexpectedly to her house in the country, it is a clash of two worlds. Gwendolen has become a difficult older woman, much like her mother Lady Bracknell. She is only interested in city living and being seen at the right dinner party.

The staging is simple in this production, with a couple of garden chairs, a table and a gramophone in one corner. While there are three characters, the two female roles dominate. Merriman (Eamon Rohan) is the ageing and slow moving butler, and spends only a few brief moments on stage.

The play is set sometime in 1913, just before the First World War. The Suffragette movement forms a key part of the story, with the two women falling on opposite sides of the argument. Gwendolen has an old fashioned view of the role of women, and does not think women should have any interest in politics. Cecily has embraced the movement and wants a new world for her daughter to live in.

It is a difficult task to follow a play as loved as Earnest but this work takes the original characters in a very different direction.  There are moments of humour but the script never dares to take Wilde on with his gift for epigrams. While there are various allusions to the primary text (a ‘handbag’ does crop up on more than one occasion) the play uses the original as a spring board to discuss a time where the rights of women were being fought for. The two main actors do a fine job to carry this work along, and it is an interesting and witty addition to what has gone before.

The Importance of Being Honest by Billie Traynor

Directed by Liam Halligan

Starring Noelle Brown, Eamon Rohan and Billie Traynor

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