Interview with award winning actor, director and writer Luke Adamson. Yes, that’s right, he does the lot, in this re-imagining of Oscar Wilde’s play – he’s revamped the script, he’s co-directing and he’s playing the role of Algernon.
LPT: ‘Ow d’y’do Luke, (is that how they say it in Yorkshire?) We love the idea of transferring the action to a Yorkshire council estate. Is it just a bit of fun?
Luke: Aye, that’s about reyt, you could almost pass for Northern! Of course it’s fun, the play is fun in itself, but I wanted to approach it from a different angle. I’ve heard plays like this described as being like flat pack furniture, you get it out of the box and put it together exactly as everyone else does. We wanted to throw away the instructions and put it together in a different way to see what happened!
LPT: Did you have any problems translating it into the Yorkshire dialect:
Luke: Not really no. There has been barely any translating really, after all it’s written in English and (contrary to popular belief) we do actually speak English in Yorkshire, I’ve just made little tweaks here and there. Part of the fun is hearing these classic lines delivered as you’ve never heard them before. Just speaking the lines in a different accent can dramatically alter the meaning or intention of what is being said, and setting the show in this environment has also altered the characters somewhat, the female characters are much more ballsy in our version and have the men wrapped around their fingers.
LPT: We were a bit shocked to see Algernon in his underpants. We’ve never seen a Yorkshireman without his clogs on – with not even a flat cap. Is this what we can expect from your version of Oscar Wilde’s seminal play?
Luke: Well we wanted an eye-catching poster and one that would immediately let you know that this was not a traditional staging of the play, I think we might have managed to achieve that with our publicity images! As for whether that particular costume will appear in the show… you’ll have to buy a ticket to find out! Let’s just say I don’t think we’ll be getting into trouble with trading standards.
LPT: What has been your biggest inspiration for the show?
Luke: Well 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’ so we wanted to offer an opportunity for native northern actors based in London to strut their stuff.
LPT: As an actor, last year was rather a good year for you, earning a Break A Leg Award and OFFIE nominations for Best Male Performance (ODD MAN OUT at The Hope) and a Great British pantomime Award for Best Supporting Male (JACK AND THE BEANSTALK at York Theatre Royal). Do you feel you’ve cracked this acting lark?
Luke: I don’t think anyone can ever really say that they’ve cracked it. I was delighted to have a wonderful year in terms of the quality of work I was involved with and the award nominations that came my way, but like most actors I still end up back behind a bar slogging my guts out for minimum wage wondering where the next job will come from. The dream is that one day I’ll be able to work consistently and continue to be able to create my own work too.
LPT: You’ve got a lovely line up of actors for TH’IMPORTANCE. Aren’t you in danger of some of them stealing a scene or two?
Luke: Oh I hope so! That’s why we’ve cast them! Yeah the cast are stonking. We’ve got Heather Dutton (Treasure Island at The National Theatre) as a feisty Gwendolen that’s not afraid to throw her weight around. Janna Fox who was recently seen in the Merchant of Venice at The Duke of Yorks Theatre in the West End is playing a revamped Miss Prism opposite a creepy Dr Chasuble played by fellow OFFIE award nominee Rob Pomfret. Kitty Martin is a true northern matriarch as Lady Bracknell, and James King (recently seen as a scene stealing dog in Foul Pages at The Hope Theatre) plays the duel role of Lane (now Algernon’s flatmate) and Merriman (a fellow estate resident that finds himself caught up in the shenanigans of the Worthing family.) We’ve also got two absolutely brilliant recent graduates in the shape of Millie Gaston as a supremely intelligent and manipulating Cecily and Joshua Welch who gives an inspired new interpretation of Jack.
LPT: Which scene are you most looking forward to doing?
Luke: Well the infamous muffin argument scene has always been a favourite and we’ve made a few cheeky adjustments to really make it our own. Let’s just say we’re really making a splash with our interpretation.
LPT: The show is being produced by your new company LKT Productions. Tell us a little bit about the set up and what you’ve got planned for the company.
Luke: Well LKT Productions was initially set up out of necessity, I was programming the Sunday/Monday shows at The Hope 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! We’re taking that show on tour in April this year and hope that it may return for a full run in London at some point.
LPT: The Company’s inaugural production was OH NO IT ISN’T, penned by yourself. We remember it got rave reviews, all the panto luvvies were ecstatic. Are we right in thinking there’s something of the panto in Wilde’s plays?
Luke: I’m not sure that’s necessarily true of all of Wilde’s work, but certainly is of Earnest. The characters are, without a doubt, larger than life and the play is a brilliantly scripted farce. Farce, and indeed comedy plays in general, require a great deal of technique, timing and the ability to read an audience. Skills also required when performing pantomime. We’ve resisted the temptation to put a man in a dress to play Lady Bracknell though.
LPT: Finally, are there any extra bits that we should be watching out for?
Luke: We haven’t added anything in terms of script, we wouldn’t dare to put extra words in Oscar Wilde’s mouth, but our direction and concept certainly requires some things that you wouldn’t see in a more traditional production.
TH’IMPORTANCE OF BEIN’EARNEST by Oscar Wilde.
Revised by Luke Adamson.
Drayton Arms Theatre, SW5,
Tuesday 5 February – Saturday 23 February 2019, 7:30pm
Box Office: 020 7835 2301 and online at
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 Bunbury!?
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. Wilde meets Shameless in
this exciting new production that promises to be one not to miss!
@January 2019 London Pub Theatres Magazine Ltd
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