The Importance of Being Earnest: Your chance to take part in Oscar Wilde's masterpiece
But theatregoers in Yorkshire now have the chance to perform in Oscar Wilde’s classic masterpiece themselves in an adaptation taking the play to new levels of farce.
The show coming to the Victoria Theatre in Halifax in November opens to looming disaster when the actor playing Ernest fails to arrive on cue and, in an effort to ensure the show does go on, a real audience member is quickly cast in the lead role.
This sets off a chain of events that, one by one, prevents the rest of the cast being able to continue, leading to more and more audience members being encouraged to volunteer to step into the spotlight as slapstick humour and misplaced props and scripts continue to create chaos.
The show on a critically-acclaimed UK tour creates a new experience every night – presenting a fresh challenge for the cast as they improvise as events unfold.
For actor Brendan Barclay, who plays put-upon stage manager Josh, the show will be a “dream come true” as he appears at his local theatre for the first time.
The 27-year-old, who grew up in Hebden Bridge and attended Calder High School in Mytholmroyd, said performing there would be a “real pinch-me moment”.
He had appeared at Halifax Playhouse but never at the Victoria Theatre although he had himself been in the audience many times.
The character of Josh is the first point of call in the play for the harassed director as the play descends into mayhem and he is sent to find missing cast members or hunt for scripts.
But he explained: “He has no lines because he’s so terrified of the audience, he’s too scared to speak as he asked to do these impossible tasks.”
The part meant he was entirely reliant on actions, making the character more like a clown.
“It’s quite difficult and not something I’ve done before. I can’t express myself through speaking, I just react physically.”
He said feedback to the show had been “amazing”.
“A lot of people come expecting to see a regular performance so it’s even more of a shock when everything starts to fall apart and people think they’re seeing something going horribly wrong until they realise it’s part of the piece.
“It’s really breaking the fourth wall blurring the line between the cast and the audience.”
Family and friends from the Calder Valley will be at the show to watch him perform.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a few on the stage,” he said.
Creative director Simon Paris said the play had developed from the idea of offering audience members the chance to step out of their comfort zone and become a star.
“Every night it feels like opening night as we truly can’t predict what is going to happen and who is going to end up joining us on stage,” he said.
The Importance of Being…Earnest? will come to the Victoria Theatre on November 18. Tickets are available online.