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Call of the Wilde

Going Out

WICKEDLY FUNNY Helen Norton and Jonathan White star in ‘To Hell in a Handbag’, an ‘Importance of Being Earnest’ spin-off that has been widely praised by critics and theatre goers.

Ciara Moynihan

‘To Hell in a Handbag: The Secret Lives of Canon Chasuble and Miss Prism’, a play written and performed by Helen Norton and Jonathan White, will be staged in The Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar tonight (Tuesday), September 12, at 8pm.
While others are preoccupied with cucumber sandwiches and railway cloakrooms, two minor characters from Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ are up to their necks in something else.
A country rector and a governess, Canon Chasuble and Miss Prism appear to be models of Victorian propriety in public. But in private? This is the play behind the play: a tale of blackmail, false identity … and money.
Since its first staging during the Dublin Fringe Fest in September 2016, the play has gone on to tour Ireland not once but twice, enjoy an extended run at the famous Bewley’s Café Theatre, and delight audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017.
‘To Hell in a Handbag’ has universally beguiled the critics. And that’s no mean feat: Norton and White’s decision to re-imagine the lives and conversations of characters in one of the world’s best-loved plays by one of the world’s most-acclaimed writers was an audacious one. They risked the no-doubt wittily caustic ire of Wildeophiles as well as the ignominy of the literary critic’s snub.   
The gamble was well-judged. Giving it a four-star review, The Irish Times said that Norton and White had ‘pulled off a coup with their enchanting visit to the outer rim of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest’, while the Sunday Independent described it as ‘Wickedly, side-splittingly funny …a joyous romp not to be missed’. The Observer, meanwhile, simply and succinctly dubbed it ‘an instant classic’.
The play’s current tour began on June 19, and included a performance last week in the Town Hall Theatre, Galway – the place where Helen Norton first played Miss Prism in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ almost two decades ago. A satisfying symmetry that would no doubt have appealed to Mr Wilde.  

To book tickets to tonight’s show, call 094 9023733, or visit www.thelinenhall.com.

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