Radical rethink for The Importance at Tara Theatre

Kudzanayi Chiwawa and Ayesha Casley-Hayford in The Importance. Images Harry Elletson.

A new production from Two Gents Productions and Tara Arts showcases Oscar Wilde’s iconic comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest, as you have never seen it before.

Their co-production of Wilde’s popular work has its London premiere at Tara Theatre on February 27.

The Importance is Oscar Wilde’s classic, witty and laugh out loud comedy of mistaken identities, confusion and cucumber sandwiches.

On the surface it’s a light, fluffy jibe at the rich, upper class. At a deeper level, it is also a profound plea for sincerity and caring in the face of adversity.

Imagining a thoroughly diverse and integrated English society, two British-African women, Ayesha Casely-Hayford and Kudzanayi Chiwawa, play all the characters and bring to life this 19th century comedy of manners.

Embracing wild wit, deft humour, role swapping and banter with the audience, they unfurl a riot of love, confusion and high jinks.

Ayesha Casely-Hayford is an actress, voice artist and employment lawyer living and working in London. Born in Battersea, she grew up in Kent and is of Ghanian descent.

Her theatre credits include Where Will We Live? (Southwark Playhouse), We Dance We Work We Sing (Vault Festival and various UK venues), Adult Child Dead Child (Lost Theatre, London), With You Always (Old Fire Station, Oxford), Black Plays series (National Theatre, London).

Kudzanayi Chiwawa is a Zimbabwean born actress, who graduated from Drama Studio London. She has just finished playing Titania & Hypolita in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed at both Dubrovnik’s Midsummer Festival and Bermuda Annual Festival of The Performing Arts.

Other recent productions include One Hundred Trillion at Southwark Playhouse, In The Continuum at The Bread & Roses Theatre, Cornflake Girl at The Bunker, Big Bad at The King’s Head, Three Mothers at Jermyn Street Theatre, and Gliwice Hamlet at The V&A.

The show’s directors Tonderai Munyevu and Arne Pohlmeier said: “The Importance of Being Earnest is a good night out at the theatre – quick witted dialogue, over the top posh-ness, mistaken identities, handbags and cucumber sandwiches.

“Underneath, however, there is also a tense drama about identity, social anxiety and the need to belong.

“We have chosen to amp up both aspects with only two actors playing all of the parts and tapping into their own experience as migrants and as women to bring a rich, nuanced approach to Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece.”

Artistic Director of Tara Arts Jatinder Verma added: “The Importance of Being Earnest is a quintessentially ‘British’ period comedy.

“To see it presented by two British-African women is just the kind of ground-breaking cheek Oscar Wilde would have relished. Tara Theatre provides a fitting home for this re-invented classic.”

The Importance of Being Earnest runs at the Tara Theatre from February 27 – March 16.

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