Oscar Wilde play at Sunderland Empire to help raise funds for struggling actors
A new twist on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is set to take to the digital stage.
The production by up and coming director, Adam Kinneen, is the result of months of dedication by an ambitious group of students from Newcastle University Theatre Society.
The play is performed and filmed at the Sunderland Empire and the streamed show will serve as a fundraiser for Acting for Others a national charity which gives those working in the entertainment industry much-needed financial and emotional support.
The charity production offers Wilde’s most widely-loved and recognised play with a twist. The playwright himself will be introduced as a character at three intervals during the performance.
These scenes, written by director Adam, draw on Wilde’s letters and words, giving an unseen insight into his life. They track his magnificent rise to stardom, from the successes of The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, to his heartbreaking downfall following revelations about his sexuality.
The entire production will also be performed against the backdrop of the 2,000 empty seats of the magnificent Sunderland Empire, symbolically calling attention to the suffering of the arts industry throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
Director Adam said: “The lack of audience was a challenge that we confronted head on, and one which impacted our performance the most. We used it as an opportunity to explore other emotions in The Importance of Being Earnest further than we believe they have been in the past.”
He added: “We brought a genuine touch to the love between Jack and Gwendolen and an intimacy between characters that audiences are perhaps not used to."
Rehearsals for the play took place digitally for several months until, after a multitude of setbacks, the cast and crew were able to come together in person for the final weeks of production, and indeed the filming itself, at all times strictly following COVID guidelines.
“We had around three or four huge delays to our filming dates due to changing restrictions, which extended the rehearsal period by an additional three months from the original schedule. Naturally, the uncertainty over whether all our hard work would even have the chance to come together in the end was incredibly
unsettling,” said Adam.
He continued: “COVID was not the only major obstacle to the creation of the production: the balancing of what was many of the cast and crew’s final year of study with six months of daily rehearsals was a constant difficulty. This was suitably rounded off by the filming days happening to fall on the exact date of dissertation submission for many of our team. We even had one cast member having to attend a Zoom presentation exam in costume, in his dressing room, 20 minutes before his call time.”
Acting for Others supports people in the arts who are in need of support, financial or otherwise.
Tickets to the charity production of The Importance of Being Earnest are on sale now. The performance will be available on Stream.Theatre/Broadway on Demand UK from July 2-16, with ticket holders having access to it throughout this period.