Review ‘The Importance of Being Described… Earnestly?’ by Tafsila Khan


 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)


This is a brand-new play produced by Chloe Clarke in collaboration with Elbow Room Theatre Company and Galeri Caernarfon.

The play is a layered piece with audio description not just integrated into the play but the main creative narrative. With the actors playing actors of a fictious theatre company which is producing an adaptation of Oscar Wildes famous play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.

The play is set in the rehearsal room of the fictious theatre company. As you enter you are welcomed in by the cast and shown to your seats. The structure of the seating area is in a circle around the performance, you have a sense of being quite exposed. As the show progresses the reasoning for this seating arrangement becomes more apparent, as members of the audience are asked to participate in various scenes of the show.

The play begins with the cast introducing themselves to ensure that members of the audience know where they are, Tobias the director begins the show with a monologue about audio description and how it is integrated into the show. Tobias describes how the show will take us on a journey together for the next 60 minutes.

The cause of audio description has been taken up by Tobias as he has started having to wear glasses. Despite the director being well intentioned, what ensues is comedy of errors with the actors disagreeing about the best way to audio describe the scenes.

You get the sense very early on that Tobias who is played amazingly by Dean Rehman, is clueless in how to integrate audio description into the play. Tobias gets very defensive when the two blind actors played by Chloe Clarke and Jake Sawyers who play Jen and Greg in the show give any feedback on his descriptions. Eventually getting annoyed by the constant criticism Tobias launches into a rant about how without him the blind actors wouldn’t even have a chance to be part of the play, the rant takes a dark turn with Tobias swearing and using offensive language to describe the disabled actors. Leaving the actors feeling humiliated and the audience feeling uncomfortable.

As the cast quibble about how and what to describe, time ticks away with the play never being started. When the stage manager announces that there are just five minutes remaining of the show, Tobias decides to abandon the audio description and go straight to the last scene of the play.

The last scene is an intimate scene between Earnest and Gwendolen…or is it?

I really enjoyed the show, I feel it highlighted two main issues with access in the arts. One being that as portrayed in this show most of the time the people who know more about what the audience needs are often ignored and dismissed by hierarchy.  Secondly the fact that the audio description has been left until open rehearsals to integrate into the performance shows as often in theatre access is an afterthought rather than an integral tool in the creativity of the piece. I also enjoyed the different ways popular stereotypes of blind and visually impaired were played on which brought a lot of the comedy to the piece.

The production plays at Galeri Carnarfon from 01/11-4/11/2018

The performance on 03.11.2018, 19:00 is BSL Interpreted

Tickets can be purchase here

Tafsila Khan

Directed by Chloë Clarke
Associate Director Robbie Bowman
Created by Elbow Room Theatre

Cast: Chloë Clarke, Dean Rehman, Lizzie Rogan, Jake Sawyers

Age Guide: 16+

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