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The Importance of Being Earnest’s director Glen Goei on Singapore’s hit play


The Importance of Being Earnest.With his trademark wit, director Glen Goei gave us a heads-up about the play, which is back by popular demand.

The Importance of Being Earnest was first performed in 1895 in London. How is it relevant to Singapore in the 21st century?

It’s about the superficialities and hypocrisy of the middle classes, which is as relevant in Singapore today as it was in 19th-century Britain. This production is also a tribute to Oscar Wilde, who went to prison because of what he stood for and what he believed in. Here in Singapore, because of an archaic law we inheritedfrom British rule, known as 377A, homosexuals are still denied the right to live with dignity and to love whomever they choose.

What is one aspect of modern Singapore culture that you think Wilde might send up, as he did when making light of the mores of 1895?

The obsession with the five Cs: condo, car, country club, credit card and cash.                  

Which are some of the most popular lines from the play?

“Indeed, no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.” And:“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”My own favourite is: “In matters of utmost importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing.”

Many of the 2009 cast have returned; why were they keen to perform in Earnest again?

I don’t know any actor who wouldn’t die to be in Earnest. And to be denied the chance to play in it again? Heaven forbid. It’s pure unadulterated joy!

Only men perform in this production; how did they all get along, given the amount of testosterone in the air?

Most of the actors have either worked with each other before or are close friends, so rehearsals were more of a romp than hard work. Besides, the only ego allowed in the rehearsal room is mine!

Is this version of the play set in Victorian England or has it been re-interpreted?

It is still set in Victorian England and none of the lines or names have been changed. But the concept is really rather stylised and does take place at a soiree here in Singapore.

Why is the work of Oscar Wilde, who also wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray and An Ideal Husband,so enduring?

Oscar Wilde wrote about many things, not least about the eternal quest for truth and beauty. And he wrote everything with his extraordinary wit and humour.

The play runs from 10 April to 4 May at the Drama Centre Theatre, National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street. Get tickets from Sistic.