Luke Adamson co-directs, co-produces and stars in Th’Importance of Bein’ Earnest, which relocates Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy to a Yorkshire council estate. He pays tribute to Northern Broadsides’ Barrie Rutter, London’s Hope Theatre and his new company’s co-founders. Read our interview with Luke below – and then get booking!
Th’Importance of Bein’ Earnest, with its regional, working-class take on Wilde’s 1895 classic, runs at London’s Drayton Arms Theatre from 5 to 23 February 2019, with a press night on 7 February.
Jack loves Gwendolen, Gwendolen loves Ernest, Algy loves Cecily, Cecily loves Ernest, Gwendolen’s Ernest is Jack, Cecily’s Ernest is Algy and who on Earth is Burnbury!?
LKT Productions’ vivid reimagining of everyone’s favourite classic comedy relocates the action from Victorian London to a Yorkshire Council estate. The muscularity of the Yorkshire accent breathes new life into those famous lines and the reconfigured social structure offers a brand-new examination of class. Gone are the starched collars and cups of tea, in are the Leeds United football shirts and cans of Stella. Oscar Wilde meets Shameless in this new production.
Toby Hampton co-directs with Luke Adamson, who also plays Algernon. Adamson is joined in the cast of Th’Importance of Bein’ Earnest by Heather Dutton, Rob Pomfret, James King, Millie Gaston and Joshua Welch. Set and costume design is by Rachael Ryan and lighting by Frank Turnball. The show is presented by LKT Productions, a new company founded by Adamson and Hampton along with Kennedy Bloomer.
Talking to… Luke Adamson
LKT Productions co-founder Luke Adamson co-directs Th’Importance of Bein’ Earnest and stars as Algernon. Last year Adamson was nominated for Best Male Performance at the Off West End Awards and Best Male Stage Performance at the Break A Leg Awards for his performance as Joe in Rabbitskin as part of Odd Man Out at the Hope Theatre and for Best Supporting Male at The Great British Pantomime Awards for his performance in Jack and the Beanstalk at York Theatre Royal.
Why did you found LKT Productions?
LKT Productions was initially set up out of necessity. I was programming the Sunday/Monday shows at the Hope Theatre, and we had a show drop out and therefore had an empty slot. I asked Toby Hampton (who is the Hope’s theatre assistant) if he had any shows that he could bring in on short notice, and he suggested that we did something together. I mentioned my idea for a play about two ugly sisters. He said “let’s do it!” so we signed Kennedy Bloomer (also part of the Hope Theatre family) up to co-direct with Toby, and LKT (Luke Kennedy Toby) Productions was born. Three weeks later, Oh No It Isn’t! opened at the Hope!
What’s been your Oscar Wilde experience to date?
I played Jack in a more traditional production back when I was about 15, and I studied scenes and monologues by him while at drama school. I’ve also seen a number of different productions of Earnest over the years.
What gave you the idea to give Earnest a Yorkshire twist?
A number of things really. Firstly, I have always followed the work of Northern Broadsides, a company that produces award-winning classic plays in Northern Voice founded by the brilliant Barrie Rutter OBE 26 years ago. I’ve been lucky enough to work with them twice and love the way that they brought the classics alive for me when the words were taken out of the ‘plummy’ voice I was so used to hearing them in and put into the voices of people that sounded like me.
Secondly, I love The Importance of Being Earnest but, being a Northerner, chances are I would never have been invited to audition for it in a traditional production, and why should Southerners have all the fun? I also have started to get a little irked by hearing lots of Northern accents on stage and screen that are clearly being ‘put on’. We wanted to offer an opportunity for native Northern actors based in London to strut their stuff.
The Yorkshire setting offers a different view and comment on class. Rather than lampooning the upper classes, it examines how we British cling to a hierarchical social structure even within groups of friends, peers and people from the same socio-economic background. The Northernness has also had a wonderful effect on the female characters in the play, making them much more proactive and perhaps even more intelligent than in a more traditional production. In our version, the women are pretty much always in charge.
How will your Algy be different from others we’ve seen?
He’s a drinking, smoking, Yorkshireman who’s not averse to dancing round his flat in his pants. I’d wager that’s never been seen in the West End!
There are so many quotable quotes in this play. What’s your favourite?
Ooh, I don’t know. There are so many to choose from! I love being able to deliver the line “The truth is rarely pure and never simple”, but I think my favourite is still “A HANDBAG!?”
Why should audiences come to see this production?
For a start, it’s really bloody funny. We’ve had tears of laughter in the rehearsal room. Secondly it’s a show for everyone, if you’ve never seen an Oscar Wilde play or don’t think you’d like an Oscar Wilde play, then give us a chance. It’s a classic story told in a brand new way.
What’s next for LKT Productions?
We’re taking Oh No It Isn’t! on tour in April this year and hope that it may return for a full run in London at some point.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I want to give a shout-out to our brilliant cast. They’ve embraced my lunacy and really run with it. They’re brilliant and I thank my lucky stars every day that we’re blessed with such talent.
Th’Importance of Bein’ Earnest runs from 5 to 23 February 2019 at Drayton Arms Theatre, 153 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 0LJ, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £14-16. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!