Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
From early November to early January, the Melbourne Theatre Company are putting on what might be Oscar Wilde's funniest play: The Importance of Being Earnest. On New Year's Eve, theatre-lovers can enjoy a special performance with formal dress, wine, beer, live music and of course champagne. Wilde's play is excellent at setting a playful tone for a bubbly New Year celebration – and it's being acted by a stellar cast.
Meet the very English Algernon and Jack, two good friends who assume different identities when they visit the town or the country. Disaster strikes when Algernon proposes to Jack's beautiful cousin, Gwendolyn, pretending that his name is 'Ernest'. Of course, if Algernon reveals Jack's secret, Jack would expose him as well – so he boldly proposes to Jack's ward, Cecily (also pretending his name is 'Ernest'.) Confused? It gets worse, with the entrance of the formidable Lady Bracknell, played by Geoffrey Rush, who treats both suitors with the utmost suspicion. The whole thing comes off as a very skillfully-constructed piece of light entertainment.
The Australian wrote about the previous MTC production of The Importance of Being Earnest that it was 'clever, glamorous' and 'did full justice to Wilde's brilliant play'. The play itself has been described by the Telegraph as 'the most perfect high comedy in the English language', a strong contender alongside even the Bard himself. There's something for everyone in it: from jokes about cucumber sandwiches and indigestion, to high satire of the British upper-class lifestyle.
Why should you go to the New Year's Eve showing of this play? Well, even though it'll be a little expensive – all that champagne and live music doesn't come for free – there's something authentic about seeing a spectacularly English play surrounded by black ties and formal dresses. When Algernon charms Gwendolyn with his dapper appearance and subtle wit, it's easier to identify with the character when you're wearing a suit jacket rather than a t-shirt and hoodie. Lady Bracknell, I imagine, is easier to sympathise with when you're wearing a dress rather than jeans. The original audience for Wilde's play would have been formal, as well, so get your historical accuracy and your monocle on at the same time. (Actually, it's probably best to leave the monocle at home.)
After the show, the live music and dancing starts, so get ready to swing as Melbourne favourites Kimba and the Gin Remedy take the stage. Kimba and the Gin Remedy play jazz and cabaret, with Kimba Griffith on vocals and her brother, Ryan Griffith on guitar. It's a touch more informal than a string quartet playing Mozart, but classier than a beer-soaked festival: striking the perfect balance for a black tie New Year's Eve celebration. Doors open at 7pm at the MTC theatre on 140 Southbank Boulevard, and the play itself starts at 8:30. The celebrations finish at one in the morning, but the city location means that dedicated partiers will easily be able to find other lodgings. Be sure to book in advance, since this event will probably sell out quickly. Oscar Wilde, Geoffrey Rush, champagne and jazz – it'll be a New Year celebration you're not likely to forget.