Irish Company Set Oscar Wilde Play In Prison Anti-Homophobia Workshop

'The Importance Of Nothing”, a new twist on the writings of the gay playwright set to tour Ireland.

Actors playing prisoners in an Oscar Wilde play sitting at a table holding scripts

Acclaimed Irish theatre company, Pan Pan are bringing a play based on the writings of Oscar Wilde on tour around Ireland. ‘The Importance Of Nothing’ is set in an anti-homophobia drama therapy workshop in prison, run by a descendant of Wilde’s lover.

Well known for their adventurous theatre pieces, Pan Pan take Oscar Wilde’s classic ‘De Profundis’, as its basis. The comedy depicts a drama therapist, Lady Lancing, who feels a responsibility for her ancestral family’s role in sending Wilde to prison. As a way to ease her guilty conscience, she conducts anti-homophobia drama therapy classes in prison. Unusually, the class consists of two gay men and one still unsure of his sexuality.

‘De Profundis’, is a letter/diary written by Wilde to his lover, “Bosie” (Lord Alfred Douglas), during his time in prison. The writer had been incarcerated for the crime of ‘gross indecency with other men’ in 1895 and sentenced to two years hard labour. While there he composed the letters, forced to hand them over as each page was completed with the prison governor returning them on the day of his release.

Previously staged in 2016, the play received strong reviews for its hysterical comedy and the fresh spin it put on the works of Wilde, as it incorporates a selection of his writings as well as the prison letters. The characters discuss everything from growing up gay in rural Ireland, sexuality, masculinity, class, love and art, but not in such straightforward fashion. 

Beginning its Irish tour in April, its cast includes queer actors Sonya Kelly, the creator of the acclaimed lesbian love story ‘How To Keep An Alien’, and Mark O’Halloran, who wrote the film ‘Viva’, about a young gay drag queen, as well as the acclaimed ‘Adam And Paul’. For the theatre fans out there, this may be one to add to your calendar. 

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