Chichester playwright imagines Importance of Being Earnest sequel


The Odds of Being Earnest by Chichester’s Greg Mosse will be directed by Roger Redfarn for the Festival of Chichester.

It will be presented as half of a double bill Two Sparkling Comedies For A Summer Evening, performed by the Chichester Community Theatre at the Riverside Theatre, Chichester College on July 10, July 11, July 12 and July 13, 7.30pm.

Completing the evening will be The Dark Lady of the Sonnets by George Bernard Shaw: William Shakespeare, intending to meet the Dark Lady, accidentally encounters Queen Elizabeth I and attempts to persuade her to create a National Theatre

Greg’s piece has been inspired by Oscar Wilde: “Oscar Wilde wrote his most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest, on a summer holiday in Worthing in 1894 when he was terribly short of cash. Despite the fact that he was accompanied by his wife and two children, he engaged in a brand-new liaison with a young man he met on the beach. His lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, came to stay, eventually leading to Oscar’s misjudged court case, prison and the bitter verses of The Ballad of Reading Gaol

“Isn’t it incredible that one of the best loved and most important comedies ever written in English should have been composed in such circumstances, under financial pressure and in all kinds of personal human difficulties? For a while, now, I’ve been thinking of writing a two-act play about that extraordinary time. I went to the Connaught in Worthing to watch To Hell in a Handbag, a funny 50-minute play about what Miss Prism and Reverend Chasuble might have got up to off-stage while the other characters were speaking Wilde’s lines on-stage. All these things came together in my imagination one evening while I was looking for slugs in my vegetables. I began to wonder where the characters might find themselves 20 years on. Then it came to me that would be the eve of the First World War, a moment in history when almost nobody foresaw the coming conflict.

“I began to ask myself some interesting questions. Was Lady Bracknell right to prize money above love? Was Reverend Chasuble right to reject celibacy and marry Miss Prism? Did Jack and Gwendolen stay in Shropshire, live in London or move away entirely? Was it likely that the self-centred Algernon would make Cecily happy? My play The Odds of Being Earnest would have to answer those questions. All that was left was to decide which two characters I would put on stage. It couldn’t be the most important characters. We know too much about them. Instead I decided upon a mismatched couple, neither of whom should really be present on the terrace of the Casino at Monte Carlo in May 1914. Finding out why they are both there is half the fun.”

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