Ernest Travesties

This weekend I am on a visit home to Wales, Aside from visiting family and friends, the main reason for coming home this weekend was to go the Birmingham to the theatre. I went to see the Birmingham Rep's double bill of Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Ernest' and Tom Stoppard's 'Travesties'.

'The Importance of Being Ernest' is one of my favourite plays, and this was an excellent production. I was more excited to see 'Travesties'. which I had heard a lot about from my parents who saw the original production in the 1970s. The plot is rather difficult to explain, it is the reminiscences of an aged British Diplomat Henry Carr, who in 1917 was working in Zurich, and knew Lenin, James Joyce and Tristan Tzara (one of the founders of the art movement Dadaism).The reminiscences centre round a production of 'The Importance of Being Ernest', staged by Joyce with Carr as Algernon. Carr's reminiscences increasingly become confused with the plot of the play, and there are a number of 'dadaist' scenes. As well as being extremely funny the play is, like most of Stoppard's, very wordy, and it explores a number of different ideas.
However, rather than give a theatre review, what I wanted to talk about was the costumes. The same actors played in both plays, and the costumes were designed to reflect this. In both plays clothes, and especially trousers, are important, especially to Algernon and Carr. I really liked Cecile's two outfits, and have been considering how to recreate parts of them. Unfortunately I can't find a picture of her costumes, and I'm not good as sketches, so you will have to take my word for it. All I could find online is this sketch for the costumes of James Joyce and Gwendoline Carr.

I will finish with one of my favourite outfit related lines. As you can see from the picture Joyce's jacket and trousers never match. Towards the end of the play Carr finally asks him;
'And I have one request to make of you - why for God's sake cannot you contrive just once to wear the jacket that is suggested by your trousers?'

Joyce: (with dignity) If I could do it once, I could do it every time. My wardrobe got out of step in Trieste, and its reciprocal members pass each other endlessly in the night.'


  1. I really really want to see/read more Stoppard, thanks for this inspiring post.


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