A revival of Oscar Wilde’s comedy, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ will be on at the Liverpool Playhouse from today to Saturday 15 October.
Created by English Touring Theatre, director Denzel Westley-Sanderson busts the myth that black history started with migrants coming down the Windrush’s gangplank, and instead employs wealthy black Victorians to reinvent this study of manners and corrosive nature of rigid societal conventions.
Mr Westley-Sanderson said: “I was told at school that we came over on the Windrush and that was it.
“When I started researching black Victorians, it opened up a whole new world.
“I knew then that I had to keep the setting real. This happened. These people existed.
“I wanted to look at Victorians as people – people who could be relaxed in their own home, who laid on the floor and yawned if they felt like it.
“They weren’t always upright and uptight; they were messy just like us. And there were black Victorians who were wealthy living here in England.
“The play is a wonderfully silly comedy, so the most important thing is that it brings joy.
“But it’s about reclaiming truth, and honouring truth. I hope it opens up the conversation so that people start to think about black Victorians and their place in our history.
“If seeing Black people who look stunning in Victorian dress, who were rich, who weren’t just on the plantation, prompts some curiosity about black Victorians, I’ll be very happy.”
An all-black cast consists of up-and-coming talent, including:
– Phoebe Campbell from House of the Dragon, as Cecily
– Daniel Jacob, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK alumni, as Lady Bracknell
– Valentine Hanson, as Merriman/Lane
– Joanne Henry, as Miss Prism
– Adele James, as Gwendolen
– Abiola Owokoniran, as Algernon Moncrieff
– Anita Reynolds, as Dr Chasuble
– Justice Ritchie, as John Worthing
The production tours with a pop-up photography display from Autograph showcasing studio portraits depicting sitters of African, Caribbean and South Asian descent during the Victorian era in Britain.
The display is part of Black Chronicles – The Missing Chapter.
This is an ongoing curatorial research programme led by Autograph, focused on unearthing nineteenth century photographs of black presences in Britain’s archives.
Tickets are available here.
For more information on what’s on at the Everyman and Playhouse theatres, click here.