blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Humour that doesn't age

Chris and I went to see the NAC's English Theatre production of The Importance of Being Earnest last week. Oscar Wilde wrote it in 1895, calling it "a trivial comedy for serious people *."

The Ottawa audience, seeing it 119 years after its first performance, loved it and laughed at all the jokes. You can read the play in its entirety here. It's not very long, but the NAC performance, including two intervals between the changes of scene, took nearly three hours. The scenery was so excellently done that when the curtain went up for the second Act the audience applauded.

The only modification from the original script was in these lines––
Cecily: I think you had better wait till Uncle Jack arrives.  I know he wants to speak to you about your emigrating.
Algernon:  About my what?
Cecily:  Your emigrating.  He has gone up to buy your outfit.
Algernon:  I certainly wouldn’t let Jack buy my outfit.  He has no taste in neckties at all.
Cecily:  I don’t think you will require neckties.  Uncle Jack is sending you to Australia.
Algernon:  Australia!  I’d sooner die.
Cecily:  Well, he said at dinner on Wednesday night, that you would have to choose between this world, the next world, and Australia.
Algernon:  Oh, well!  The accounts I have received of Australia and the next world are not particularly encouraging...
––in which, of course, the word "Canada" was substituted for "Australia."

Six years before the first appearance of this play a book called Three Men in a Boat was published, by Jerome K. Jerome. His humour is similarly dateless.

* Quakers are serious people and the word "earnest" is often applied to them, but note what they advise one another about marriage:
Remember that happiness depends on an understanding and steadfast love on both sides. In times of difficulty remind yourself of the value of prayer, of perseverance and of a sense of humour.
(my underlining). I dare say the person who wrote that clause was British, too.

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