The Lawrence Batley Theatre and The Dukes new digital co-production of The Importance of Being Earnest brings Oscar Wilde’s classic play up to date and transfers the action up north. I caught up with actor Tom Dixon, who plays Algy, to find out more.
How did you first get into theatre?
I was prone to hosting mini-performances for my family as a kid – singing, dancing, playing my grandad’s harmonica (badly), all sorts of nonsense. But then as a teenager I lost a lot of my confidence (as you do.)
But then in high school my drama teacher got us to perform some brilliant plays like Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ and Euripides’ ‘Medea’ and I just fell in love with performing and watching theatre. She then encouraged me to audition for the National Youth Theatre, I got in, and the rest is history. So I’d say it’s thanks to my drama teacher, Sarah McGrath, that I got into theatre.
For those who aren’t familiar with The Importance of Being Earnest, can you tell me a little bit about the play?
TIOBE is a brilliant farce, that revolves around the mis-use of the fake personae of ‘Earnest’. It’s very silly and pokes fun in a satirical way at upper class Victorian values. Yasmeen Khan has done a marvellous job at writing a very modern adaptation set in the the North whilst still keeping in some of the best lines from Wilde’s original script.
What was it about the production that made you want to get involved?
I have loved all of the digital work that LBT have done so far during the last year. I’ve been so impressed with how quickly they have adapted what they do to suit the new environment, how they took risks and tried experimental new ways of creating work and how they have continued to engage with their community as much as they possibly could. Also, I’m a big fan of the director Mina Anwar!
Can you tell me about your character Algy?
In the original version Algy is a ‘charming’ bachelor, and Yasmeen has done a great job of modernising this by turning him into a smarmy super famous rom-com actor. At the start he’s very shallow and disillusioned by fame, but he goes on a big journey of self discovery throughout the play.
How have you found the process of rehearsing this production whilst in lockdown?
The rehearsal process was all over zoom, which was a strange but thankfully we’re all quite used to zoom these days so I suppose that made it a little bit easier to handle. What you lose is a chance to chat, socialise and connect with the creative team and other performers. Finally getting to meet people in person in the theatre for the shoot was very exciting, we laughed a lot and there was a lot of camaraderie.
What can audiences expect?
An inventive and hilarious modern adaptation of a classic, set on the cobbled streets of Huddersfield, with flatcaps, cups of tea and Nandos references to boot.
What do you think Oscar Wilde would make of this production?
Given that he said ‘Life is too short to be taken seriously,’ I think he would love how silly, joyous and outrageous this play is.
The Importance of Being Earnest streams until Tuesday 4 May.