Further to March 2002…

I find one post has survived the Diary-X wreckage!

Sunday, March 24, 2002

Cecily. Well, I know, of course, how important it is not to keep a business engagement, if one wants to retain any sense of the beauty of life, but still I think you had better wait till Uncle Jack arrives. I know he wants to speak to you about your emigrating.

Algernon. About my what?

Cecily.Your emigrating. He has gone up to buy your outfit.

Algernon. I certainly wouldn’t let Jack buy my outfit. He has no taste in neckties at all.

Cecily. I don’t think you will require neckties. Uncle Jack is sending you to Australia.

Algernon. Australia! I’d sooner die.

Cecily. Well, he said at dinner on Wednesday night, that you would have to choose between this world, the next world, and Australia.

Algernon. Oh, well! The accounts I have received of Australia and the next world, are not particularly encouraging. This world is good enough for me, cousin Cecily.

Cecily. Yes, but are you good enough for it?

That is of course from Act II of The Importance of Being Ernest and still got a good laugh from an Australian audience on a warm night when there was hardly a neck tie in sight!

Particularly when Cecily was played by a six foot tall Australian male in a fetching Edwardian summer frock.

Yesterday was a sheer delight. I met the Model for lunch where we discussed some matters of mutual interest. We then remembered that a rather important horse race was being run that day, or at least the Model did, so we went in search of a betting shop, managing to walk straight past the nearest one. However, we found another and the Model made a small investment on our behalf, which (it turned out) confirmed my ambivalence about gambling…

Then to the New Theatre where we met up with PK, Sirdan and Colin. The first play, Gross Indecency was Moises Kaufmann’s docudrama on the trials of Oscar Wilde, and is quite a splendid play. Peter Flett as Wilde was convincing in appearance and I was moved, I have to say, particularly by the speeches of Wilde towards the end as his life descended into chaos and the prison house beckoned. The Marquess of Queensberry, on the other hand, was just a bit too caricatured. There was a delightful sequence where Queen Victoria was literally wheeled in to sign into law the Act forbidding “Gross Indecency” (except between women).

One could not but be struck by echoes of the past week in Australia (the Justice Kirby issue).

The Sydney Morning Herald reviewer had damned the second play, The Importance of Being Ernest out of hand. It is, admittedly, Barry Lowe’s transformation of the text: we find ourselves at the beginning in Reading Gaol, the prisoners (including Wilde) circling in the exercise yard. Then we move to Wilde’s memory of the performance of The Importance of Being Ernest with Wilde sitting to one side of the stage. Twice he appears within the play; after the interval we enter the theatre and see Wilde talking to Cecily, who addresses her first lines to him. Then near the end, Wilde makes a short speech just before the last few speeches of the play. I thought it worked very well, particularly when you had just seen Gross Indecency.

The play itself was fresh, funny, well-paced, and the audience loved it. Sirdan had never read the play before or ever seen it, and he really enjoyed himself. The fact all parts were played by men was not at all disturbing. In fact it added to it, in my view. They did not camp it up outrageously but stayed in character and respected the text; the disjunctions, when they occurred, were delicious. I loved it. So did the Model, and PK, who is a bit of a purist when it comes to theatre.

We concluded the Herald reviewer must have been to another play!

Between plays we had the most delicious African food in a restaurant in King Street.

It was a really beautiful afternoon/evening.

Later

I had fun rereading The Importance of Being Ernest at various times during the day.

Then, this evening at 7.30 SBS showed the first episode of the PBS series on the reign of Queen Victoria. I certainly learned something from it. Next week it deals with India–must watch.

Now to visit the New Theatre archives.

Australian Premiere of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde by Moises Kaufman, directed by Elaine Hudson

This stunning work of theatre – a smash hit off Broadway – turns the trials of Oscar Wilde into riveting human and intellectual drama. Expertly interweaving courtroom testimony with excerpts from Wilde’s writings, and the words of his contemporaries, Gross Indecency unveils Oscar Wilde in all his genius and human frailty, his age in all its complacency and repression. Rent boys and prostitutes appear alongside titled nobility and the rich and famous, including Lord Alfred Douglas, the Marquess of Queensberry, George Bernard Shaw and Queen Victoria. Author Moises Kaufman also wrote the 2001 smash hit at Belvoir, The Laramie Project.

in repertory with Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest (as performed by the inmates of Reading Gaol)

A Prison Fantasy, concept by Barry Lowe, directed by Elaine Hudson.

Oscar Wilde’s comic masterpiece, The Importance of Being Ernest, (as performed by the inmates of Reading Gaol) plays in repertory with Gross Indecency for eight performances only, with an all-male cast for both plays. As one critic observed, “Ernest is full of masculine women and feminine men.”

“Ernest shattered sexual boundaries when it was written,” comments director Elaine Hudson, whose Death of Peter Pan was a Mardi Gras hit in the mid 90’s. “There are secrets and sins in both Ernest and Gross Indecency,” she adds. “but they’re light-hearted and benign in one, and deadly serious in the other.”

The Importance of being Ernest is a triumphantly funny play, which Barry Lowe has set as a ‘prison fantasy’ against the grimness of Reading Gaol.

” I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky… ” (The Ballad of Reading Gaol)

As Oscar Wilde also wrote, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Directed: Elaine Hudson, Design: Alice Lau, Lighting design: Tony Youlden, Sound Design: David Cashman and Featuring: Michael Briggs, John Farndale, Peter Flett, John Grinston, Anthony Hunt, Michael Lynch, Brett Hicks-Maitland, David Michel, Leigh Rowney, David Scott, Simon Stollery.

Director Elaine Hudson is a NIDA graduate, whose directing credits include After the Fall (Associate Director), Barry Lowe’s The Death of Peter Pan, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and Gina Schien’s Relative Comfort, all at the New Theatre, Endgame at the Lookout, Poles Apart at the Stables, The Lady from Dubuque for Company 2a, The Man Who Came to Dinner (Genesian Theatre) and A Touch of Paradise Downstairs Belvoir. Elaine recently returned from The International New York Fringe Festival, where she appeared in Queensize Production’s award-winning Mary Stuart.

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