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The Importance of Being Earnest
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on 13 September 2014
I was under the impression that The Importance of Being Earnest was a serious piece of work for some reason but I couldn't have been more wrong. This play, written by Oscar Wilde, is incredibly funny farcical comedy that was written in the late 19th century. It follows the story of two men, John and Algernon who both have separate identities for when they are in town and when they are in the country. When John is in town, he goes by the name Ernest and claims to be in love with a young lady named Gwendolen, whom he wishes to marry. The problem is that the name Ernest is of great importance to Gwendolen, but of course, it isn't his real name. Algernon usually resides in town but upon hearing that his friend John has a young ward by the name of Cecily in the country, he takes on the persona of John's fake brother 'Ernest', and goes to visit John's house in the country. As you can imagine, numerous funny incidences occur as there is more than one man named 'Ernest' and people are not who they say they are.

This play is rather short and I managed to read the entire play in about an hour. There are very few stage directions in The Importance of Being Earnest, but this play is all about what people are saying, rather than what they are doing. Everything the characters say is either nonsense or completely backwards which is very funny for the reader. I must admit that even I got a little confused with all the identity switches but this short and sharp play keeps you entertained the entire way through and laugh-out-loud funny. Reading this play was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I would imagine that seeing this played out on stage would be even better. I haven't read any of Wilde's other plays but I can't imagine them getting much better, or funnier, than this.

Of course, whilst it is incredibly funny, if you read between the lines this is a satire of society and social commentary with Wilde making remarks on love affairs and marriage in the 19th century as well as the vanity of the upper classes. Of course everything the characters say is quite ridiculous and you absolutely cannot take them seriously and yet I suppose the idea of these characters being real people is not funny at all.

All in all, Wilde is a master and The Importance of Being Earnest is a must read/watch for all. Having read the play, I am now desperate to see it performed on stage which will no doubt be down right hilarious. This play is very short and easy to read so there are absolutely no excuses. Although written over a century ago, this witty play is a timeless classic that even modern readers will appreciate.
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 April 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
 First broadcast as a four-act play by BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Day 1977, this purely audio adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic 1895 comedy 'The Importance of Being Earnest' featured the likes of Jeremy Clyde as Algernon Moncrieff, Richard Pasco as John Worthing, Prunella Scales as Cecily Cardew and Maurice Denham as The Rev. Canon Chasuable.

In 2010, the BBC released the recording in a 2 CD audio book format, as part of their Classic Radio Theatre series. The recording is crisp and clear, delivering a perfect representation of the original broadcast.

The performance was directed by Ian Cotterell, who went on to do similar adaptations of popular classics, notably Alice in Wonderland (also in 1977) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (1985). With 'The Importance of Being Earnest', Cotterell sets down a constantly flowing rhythm to the storyline's pace, allowing for an entertaining and engaging adaptation of this humorous classic.

Jeremy Clyde's exceptional performance as Algernon Moncrieff is one of the strongest elements to the production. His comically playful voice adds a joyful quality to each line. Indeed, every time Clyde speaks of Moncrieff's fictional friend 'Bunbury' or the art of 'Bunburying', the listener can't help but snigger at the whole elaborate affair.

All in all this is a triumphant adaptation of a much loved and enjoyed comedy classic by such a literary great. The pace and flow of the storyline is spot on, and the delivery from each member of the cast is simply superb. The recording itself is flawless, making an altogether excellent presentation. This is an item that is well worth purchasing.

The audio book runs for a total of 2 hours and 20 minutes.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 April 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am a bit old to admit this, but this is my first experience of Oscar Wilde. Yes I know the chap is very highly regraded and I know he is a very clever writer, but to be frank I know more about his life as a gay man and his persecution and maybe his one-liners then I do of his literacy works. I thought it was about time to delve into works and what a better way to do it than through a BBC archive of "The Importance of Being Ernest". Now I have a wife who knows this well and loves it and a female friend who never misses an opportunity to see it as a play as and when its in her area so it did have quite a bit to live up to.

First surprise, Prunella Scales is in the play!! Must be older than I thought (heavens did I just think and write that!!). Now the BBC has an impressive pedigree on its plays and to be quite frank this CD is well worth listening to. Without Radio 4 where would we be. There are not enough plays on the radio in any case and the sooner they repeat some of the classics the better. And add to that they should have a large library on CD of them also.

Now, back to the play. After the two recommendations earlier, I was some what weary as to how good and enjoyable I thought the play would be. By the way I hate hundreds of characters and actors as i invariably forget who's who. Here I think I only counted 6 characters and not to give away the plot, for those like me who was new to "The importance of Being Ernest", I will not delve further into the number of characters in the play. Billed as a farce for serious people, I can see where this chap Oscar Wilde is coming from.

Again, remember that I am not acquainted with Wllde's work, though i do know what period he was am active writer in so I assume the play must be between 1890-1900. That is pertinent as you really do need to visualise the period for the lay to work. Ok obvious point, but without this you are a bit lost. there are clues - trains running on time -( well it must be at least a century since trains to Wiltshire rang on time, seems like only last month I was an hour late from Paddington to Bath (it was come to think of it)., and letters arrived on the day or day after you sent them - I can' remember that ever happening!

Though being a period piece the play is timeless in its clever quotes and humour. As i said I know of the one-liners, Wilde was famous for, and the play has quite a few funny one-liners that made me chuckle. The story is, of course ridiculous, though thats was farce is, isn't it and that doesn't detract from the tale. Reminded me a bit of a "Bed Full Of Foreigners" and I reckon if the sprite Terry Scott was around he would make a great Algernon. (on a side note the funnest thing I have ever seen in comedy theatre was a Terry Scout striptease in "A Bed full of Foreigners" - opps deviating again).

Without giving the plot away (and maybe, just maybe I was the only one who didn't know it) its about falsehoods and made-up identities. Bit like Facebook. well no, funnier thann that. The play contrives to lead you though a day or so of lies and deception which, of course leads to more lies and deception like a good farce does.

Would I recommend the Play to other. yes. In fact I hope to find other Wilde Plays and Tales to listen to and read. Well worth having in your audio library.
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on 4 July 2001
I am currently studying The Importance of Being Earnest for my English Literature A-level and I can honestly say it is the best piece of writing I have studied so far. Funny, ironic and completely truthful, this play is based on people's behaviour, especially the behaviour of the aristocracy, which is, at times, nothing short of stupid, but that's where the humour lies. The play is fairly short, (A-level students everywhere heave a sigh of relief) but this doesn't prevent it from being complicated- those who have trouble remembering names might like to steer clear (at one point, two people claim to be the same person, even though this person doesn't exist). However, this doesn't make the play particularly difficult; once you have established the plot, it falls into place. A word of warning: if you have no sense of humour you will find this play a bore. For the rest of us, though, it's a highly enjoyable read.
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on 13 December 2004
I personally think that this play is fantastic. Superficially it is a very trivial, lighthearted play with little plot but peppered with witty conceits. On a deeper level it provides an incredible, satirical view of Victorian moral society, from one of the the 'insiders'. The links between the play and the life of Wilde are rife, especially regarding Algernon. I would recommend it wholeheartedly.
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VINE VOICEon 12 July 2004
"The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People" is one of the first plays written in English since the works of Shakespeare that celebrates the language itself. Oscar Wilde's comedy has one advantage over the classic comedies of the Bard in that "The Importance of Being Earnest" is as funny today as it was when it was first performed at the St. Jame's Theater in London on February 14, 1895. After all, enjoying Shakespeare requires checking the bottom for footnotes explaining the meaning of those dozens of words that Shakespeare makes up in any one of his plays. But Wilde's brilliant wit, his humor and social satire, remain intact even though he was a writer of the Victorian era.
Wilde believed in art for art's own sake, which explains why he emphasized beauty while his contemporaries were dealing with the problems of industrial England. "The Importance of Being Earnest" is set among the upper class, making fun of their excesses and absurdities while imbuing them with witty banter providing a constant stream of epigrams. The play's situation is simple in its unraveling complexity. Algernon Moncrieff is an upper-class English bachelor who is visited by his friend Jack Worthing, who is known as "Ernest." Jack has come to town to propose to Gwendolen Fairfax, the daugher of the imposing Lady Bracknell and Algy's first cousin. Jack has a ward named Cecily who lives in the country while Algernon has an imaginary friend named "Bunbury" whom he uses as an excuse to get out of social engagements.
Jack proposes to Gwendolen but has two problems. First, Gwendolen is wiling to agree because his name is Ernest, a name that "seems to inspire absolute confidence," but which, of course, is not his true Christian name. Second, Lady Bracknell objects to Jack as a suitor when she learns he was abandoned by his parents and found in a handbag in Victoria Station by Mr. Thomas Cardew. Meanwhile, Algernon heads off to the country to check out Cecily, to whom he introduces himself as being her guardian Jack's brother Ernest. This meets with Ceclily's approval because in her diary she has been writing about her engagement to a man named Ernest. Then things get really interesting.
Wilde proves once and for all time that the pun can indeed be elevated to a high art form. Throughout the entire play we have the double meaning of the word "earnest," almost to the level of a conceit, since many of the play's twists and turns deal with the efforts of Jack and Algernon to be "Ernest," by lying, only to discover that circumstances makes honest men of them in the end (and of the women for that matter as well). There is every reason to believe that Wilde was making a point about earnestness being a key ideal of Victorian culture and one worthy of being thoroughly and completely mocked. Granted, some of the puns are really bad, and the discussion of "Bunburying" is so bad it is stands alone in that regard, but there is a sense in which the bad ones only make the good ones so glorious and emphasize that Wilde is at his best while playing games with the English language.
But if Wilde's puns are the low road then his epigrams represent the heights of his genius, especially when they are used by the characters in an ironic vein (e.g., "It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal" and "I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance"). Jack is the male lead, but it is Algernon who represents the ideal Wilde character, who insists he is a rebel speaking out against the institutions of society, such as marriage, but with attacks that are so flamboyant and humorous that the cleverness of the humor ends up standing apart from the inherent point.
In the end, "The Importance of Being Earnest" is the wittiest play every written, in English or any other language, and I doubt that anything written in the future will come close. Wilde was essentially a stand-up comedian who managed to create a narrative in which he could get off dozens of classic one-liners given a high-class sheen by being labeled epigrams. Like a comedian he touches on several topics, from the aristocracy, marriage, and the literary world to English manners, women, love, religion, and anything else that came to his fertile mind. But because it is done with such a lighthearted tone that the barbs remain as timely today as they were at the end of the 19th-century and "The Importance of Being Earnest" will always be at the forefront of the plays of that time which will continue to be produced.
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on 8 February 2018
Do not but this paperback edition : it is nothing else than an internet scam!
Although you cannot see that on a your computer screen , the front cover image is a low resolution image printed on glossy paper.
Unless you look it from 10 meters away, (or have really poor eyesight) it does look highly pixellized.
Furthermore, print are small using an ugly font, using cheapest paper available on the market.
On top of that you have no notes or any kind preface that you would expect for such a classical masterpiece of English literature.
You might as well get a free copy form the web and print it yourself on a 100$ ink printer, you will get a better result....
Keep away from this edition!!!!!!
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VINE VOICEon 17 June 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a wonderful sparkling play. It is full of clever lines and great characters and there is so much to enjoy. The great cast and the director wring just about every nuance out of the script. I noticed a lot of fun being wrought from the different social and economic circumstances of each of the characters (and there is a lot to do with social status/class here even down to town vs country snobbery). At the end there are three happy engagements - all within caste and class as Lady Bracknell would demand and the late Victorian audience would, overall, prefer. It's pitched just right to be popular and there are different facets to it depending on your point of view - so a broad audience can enjoy it. I thoroughly enjoyed this production. It was a total joy to listen to.

Of course this play is not just very well observed, it is very, very well written; it was the last glittering triumph of Oscar Wilde's career. The year was 1895 and Wilde would follow this success with 'An Ideal Husband' just a couple of months later. Around the same time he was arrested for 'gross indecency' and his tragic ruin and humiliation followed. He was ostracised from the British society he had so gently satirised and died in Paris in 1900 at the age of 46. I couldn't help thinking about all this while I was listening to this play which is so full of life and champagne wit and energy; it made the play take on a poignancy which made me really listen carefully to each word. On a lighter note this terrific production has made me want to read all of Oscar's plays and to make sure I see them all in quality theatre productions. And if there are any more great BBC radio productions of Wilde's plays I hope they will be released on CD or via MP3 downloads soon.
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VINE VOICEon 17 June 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Speaking of mistaken identities, as The Importance Of Being Earnest very much does, I could put neither face nor cherished TV character to Prunella Scales' name upon initial inspection of the cast list for this 1977 BBC production. Then I put two faces to it. One was Margo from The Good Life and the other was Sybil Fawlty. Now I'm sure all of you know that it's the latter, but Google also tells me that Penelope Keith of Margo from The Good Life fame has also toured The Importance Of Being Earnest, so in many ways I feel doubly vindicated.

The important thing to take from all this is, I like Basil Fawlty's wife, I'm sure you like Basil Fawlty's wife, and you'll be dazed with happiness over Prunella Scales' presence here. In 2010 the rest of the cast may be even trickier for me to put a face to but there are solid performances to be found across the board - not to mention the performance of this 33-year-old radio recording itself, preserved to absolute perfection. If you've never seen the play on stage - or a film, TV or radio adaptation of it - before, this Classic Radio Theatre variation communicates Wilde's timeless wit flawlessly.

And now on to the question of why one might desire to add this 140 minute double-CD audiobook to their collection. It's unwaveringly faithful to the original four-act play, which either makes it a handy study aid, an enjoyable way to while away the hours on a Sunday or of not much use to someone who knows the play inside out. I fit in with the Sunday afternoon listeners, but whoever you are, you should join with my gratitude to the BBC for making these archival recordings available.
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 March 2010
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
We should be grateful to Auntie Beeb that this 1977
radio broadcast of 'The Importance Of Being Ernest'
has been give a new lease of life in this fine audiobook.

Oscar Wilde's 1895 play, despite its highly formulaic ground
plan, remains deservedly popular more than a century later not
least for the pithy but restrained fireworks of its dialogue.
That he lived both inside and outside the class and culture
that he so venemously lampoons in this narrative is a credit
to his wit, shameless audacity and monolithic ego.

The cast under Ian Cotterell's knowing direction is uniformly
excellent. The story unfolds at a cracking pace and everyone
really does seem to be enjoying the experience of spinning
out those mercurial lines into the listening world.

Richard Pasco, as John Worthing and Jeremy Clyde as Algernon
Moncrieff deliver solid performances, making the most of the
confusion as the plot unfolds.

Prunella Scales is a delightful Cecily Cardew. Her fruity tone
and limber touch gives the words an almost musical quality.

Fabia Drake is a top notch Lady Bracknell. With her jaw set
permanently on stun, she chews each word as if it were a wasp
in her mouth, (doubtless her chin, too, is perfectly poised at
the correct socially required angle!) and spits them out with
scant regard for her victims' feelings. She is magnificent!
I was listening on a train when I got to her iconic reflection :
"Thirty five is a very attractive age. London society is full
of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free
choice, remained thirty five for years" and laughed out loud!!

The sound quality of the recording is fresh and vivid througout.
Terence Allbright's whimsical piano interludes are a jolly addition.

Highly Recommended.
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