Check out this glowing review from The Sunday Business Post for The Importance of Being Honest, starting Deirdre Monaghan. The show must end this Saturday 25th!
It’s often tempting to wonder what becomes of characters when a story, novel or play ends. In the Importance of Being Honest, Billie Traynor takes a bold imaginative leap, writing a future for the two female protagonists in Oscar Wilde’s most famous dramatic work.
The Importance of Being Earnest left Gwendolen and Cecily at the point of marriage. Traynor picks them up 20 years later, in 1913. Cecily, ensconced on her country estate, fills her days with interpretive dance, meditation and mantras: “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.”
When Gwendolen arrives unannounced from the city, the women take tea in the garden, engaging in a fraught and often very funny conversation that exposes their fundamental differences.
While Cecily embraces a somewhat rarefied version of modernity and wears informal, free-flowing clothes, Gwendolen believes in good corsetry and laments the trend of men appearing for dinner in “complete undress”, ie, without a bow tie.
Gwendolen (played by Billie Traynor) gets most of the best lines. Gloriously self-deluded and an outrageous snob, she has, as she realises to her horror, turned into her mother, the infamous, indomitable Lady Bracknell.
Traynor includes several references to the original play, and though full of wonderful Wildean aphorisms – “Marriage is a contract between a man and a woman in which neither has a right to happiness” – The Importance of Being Honest is a homage to, rather than an attempted emulation of Wilde.
Unlike her predecessor, Traynor is not determined to avoid an overtly serious message. Women’s suffrage is almost immediately a point of contention between Cecily and Gwendolen, who calls Emmeline Pankhurst a “Bolshevik she-devil”.
For the most part, the issues are character-driven and explored with an admirable lightness of touch. Traynor and Deirdre Monaghan (who plays Cecily) counterbalance each other brilliantly, their instinctive comic timing accentuating the wit of the script.
As they grapple with their own personal conflicts – imperfect marriages, advancing age, increasingly independent children – the women also explore their attitudes towards gender politics and, while it remains faithful to the period in which it is set, the play has plenty of contemporary relevance.