Plays

All posts in the Plays category

The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde

Published January 7, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Oscar Wilde’s madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers entanglements still delights readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance. The rapid-fire wit and eccentric characters of The Importance of Being Earnest have made it a mainstay of the high school curriculum for decades.

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack’s ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack’s country home on the same weekend the “rivals” to fight for Ernest s undivided attention and the “Ernests” to claim their beloveds pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!

What did I think?:

This entertaining play from Oscar Wilde has become an instant classic, loved the world over, and a perfect example of Wilde’s wit and talent. It has also fairly recently been made into a film starring Colin Firth, Rupert Everett and Reese Witherspoon, which I came across first before reading the play and loved. The story opens on two old friends, Jack and Algernon, who are entertaining themselves with people that they invent, to get out of certain tiresome events. For example, Algernon has an imaginary friend called Bunbury who is often sadly quite ill, and he is obliged to dash off at a moments notice to the aid of his sickly friend, like a knight in shining armour, which may unfortunately lead to him missing one of his Aunt Augusta’s (Lady Bracknell) events. Shame! Jack on the other hand, has a house in the country and a young ward called Cecily whom he is very protective over, but occasionally a man has to get away doesn’t he? So he invents a troublesome younger brother called Ernest, who is constantly getting into scrapes which his poor older brother has to rescue him from! (And usually involves a trip to town of course!).

It is obvious that Jack and Algy have been friends for a while, but for some reason Algy has never heard him mention a young, pretty ward before…perhaps there was a good reason for that as Algy decides to visit Cecily at Jack’s country house masquerading as Ernest, the roguish younger brother and falls in love with her. In Jack’s story, he is courting Gwendolyn, the daughter of the fearsome Lady Bracknell, without much hope of ever getting her approval to marry Gwendolyn due to the fact that Jack was found in a train station. In a handbag to make it worse! And there’s also the slight problem of Jack wooing Gwendolyn under the name of Ernest, especially when all four meet at Jack’s house and there are misunderstandings a-plenty! Just imagine – two women both engaged to a man called Ernest….it’s asking for trouble.

This play is without a doubt one of the funniest things I have ever read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters are fantastic, especially the intimidating Lady Bracknell who has some of the best lines in the entire play, and I can imagine it being quite fun to act her part:

“To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

I thought Wilde made some really humorous references to the English class system, the whole “courting” process and the occasional fickleness and selfishness of human nature. It’s sharp and quick, but so easy to read and absorb, and his cynical eye often shows us a new (and very funny) face of society. Although this is my first foray into the world of Wilde, it won’t be the last, and I can’t wait!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Comedy of Errors – William Shakespeare

Published September 15, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The Comedy of Errors tells the story of two sets of identical twins that were accidentally separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, arrive in Ephesus, which just so happens to be the home of their twin brothers, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus. On encountering the friends and families of their twins, a series of wild mishaps ensues, based on mistaken identities, leading to wrongful beatings, a near-seduction, the arrest of Antipholus of Ephesus, and false accusations of infidelity, theft, madness and even demonic posssession. This play has been popular on the stage during the last three centuries and has proved itself admirable suited to adaptation as pure farce and musical spectacle.

What did I think?:

I have to admit, I was slightly wary before approaching this play. I haven’t studied any Shakespeare for a long while, and I feared not being able to understand most of it! I needn’t have worried though, as it proved to be immensely readable, and I think I just about kept up with the gist of the tale. So, in a nutshell, we have two sets of identical twins, all separated at birth and ignorant of the other’s existences. It is also particularly unlucky that they have the same names i.e. we have two Antipholus’ and two Dromio’s – you can almost anticipate the carnage that occurs when the two sets of twins meet.

This is one of Shakespeare’s earliest and shortest plays, some arguing that it is his very first, and has been performed on the stage to great acclaim. As with all other Shakespeare plays that I have come across, the writing is poetic and lyrical, with a dash of humour and a dollop of word play. And I have to say, I think Shakespearian insults are amongst the finest around:

“Why pratest thou to thyself and answer’st not? Dromio, thou drone, thou snail, thou slug, thou sot!”

There were so many problems of mistaken identity in this play that it was often hard to keep up, but I can imagine it coming across very well on the stage, and it is certainly true that these plays were written for the sole purpose of being acted out, not merely read. In general, I found it a short but pleasant enough read that shows all the promise and talent that Shakespeare had as a writer.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Glass Menagerie – Tennessee Williams

Published March 31, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Abandoned by her husband, Amanda Wingfield comforts herself with recollections of her earlier, more gracious life in Blue Mountain when she was pursued by “gentleman callers.” Her son Tom, a poet with a job in a warehouse, longs for adventure and escape from his mother’s suffocating embrace, while Laura, her shy crippled daughter, has her glass menagerie and her memories. Amanda is desperate to find her daughter a husband, but when the long-awaited gentleman caller does arrive, Laura’s romantic illusions are crushed.

What did I think?:

I’ve only ever read one other play by Tennessee Williams – A Streetcar Named Desire, which I studied for A Level English Literature and absolutely loved. I’ve been meaning to get round to his other works, and I’m very glad to have read this one. Apparently, the character of Laura was loosely based on his sister Rose who had recently undergone a pre-frontal lobotomy and it was Williams’ way of coming to terms with his sister’s illness and underlying guilt over “not doing more” to help her. Laura is definitely a very fragile individual, her glass menagerie is part escapism, part coping strategy for dealing with her life. Her mother, Amanda has quite obviously not given her the tools to manage her world, and veers towards the extreme end of over-protectiveness.

Amanda reminded me a lot of the infamous Blanche DuBois (from Streetcar) with her paranoid monologues/ramblings and passionate little flurries about her gentlemen callers. As this is only the second work of Williams that I have read, I wonder if he has ever written a stronger. less vulnerable female character? Despite this, the characters of Amanda and Laura make for compulsive reading, and I was sorry the play had to end as there seemed to be much more that could be squeezed out of them. I was also incredibly curious about Tom, our narrator and son of Amanda. One of my favourite parts was the argument between mother and son – I loved the bitterness and frustration that came across from both sides and thought the author captured the emotions beautifully on the page. Really looking forward to my next foray into Williams’ work – maybe Cat on a Hot Tin Roof next?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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