Newcastle University: Students Fight for the Arts with Wilde

A new twist

Bugsy Bannon as Gwendolen Fairfax and Max Brennan as Jack Worthing
It is the most ambitious project that the Theatre Society has ever executed, and I am buzzing with pride to share it with the world.
Louisa Rimmer, incoming President of the Newcastle University Theatre Society

A new twist on Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is set to take the digital stage. The performance, a 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 will be 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, which are written by director, Newcastle University graduate Adam Kinneen, 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. The very fact that this digital production of The Importance of Being Earnest has been able to go ahead, despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 crisis, is a neat reflection of Wilde’s own story of resilience in the face of adversity.

Ambitious project
English Literature undergraduate Louisa Rimmer is incoming President of the Society and is playing Lady Bracknell in the production. “This project has been in the works for over 10 months, but one moment that I consistently return to is walking onto the stage at The Sunderland Empire for the very first time,” she said. “There was something so utterly heart-wrenching about it’s eerily empty auditorium, over a year after the forced closure of theatre venues across the country. It was a visceral reminder of everything our production stands for; the unwavering importance of the arts, and the vital work of charities like Acting for Others.

“It is the most ambitious project that the Theatre Society has ever executed, and I am buzzing with pride to share it with the world.”

Adam Kinneen said: “Oscar Wilde figured out the key to immortality was art. He lived as an artist so that his work would live beyond him. When the ‘Save the arts’ movement began to gain traction in the UK, I couldn’t think of anyone better than Wilde to represent why we must protect and preserve the UK’s entertainment industry and all the creatives that form a part of it.”

Financial insecurity is a familiar reality for those working in the entertainment industry, however, the pandemic has only exacerbated that uncertainty. This production of The Importance of Being Earnest represents an attempt to recognise and repay those working in the entertainment industry, and to fight for the survival of the UK’s arts sector more broadly. The work that Acting for Others does for people who are in need of support, financial or otherwise, is crucial in order to maintain the momentum of the UK’s arts industry.

The profits made from ticket sales to The Importance of Being Earnest will go to this very necessary charity, helping to secure the future of the UK’s talented pool of artists and creatives. Tickets to this 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 2 to 16 July, with ticket holders having access to it throughout this period.

You can also donate to Acting for Others via the Theatre Society’s JustGiving Page.

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