The first question that springs to mind is why use a man to play Lady Bracknell? This really can only be answered by Kristen Coury, our director, the woman responsible for my being here. For my part, it is a challenge that I have long desired. Historically Lady Bracknell has often been played by men. I remember being galvanized by the great American actor, Ellis Rabb, when he played her at the Old Globe in San Diego in 1982. Last year both Brian Bedford and Geoffrey Rush had a shot at her. There is also, I am told, the pragmatic reason that since Gulfshore Playhouse has only two dressing rooms, there is only room for three actresses and Lady Bracknell makes four. Either way it is one of the great characters to play in English theatre.
There is also the fact that as an Englishman, I am used to the idea of men dressing up as women. In this country if you mention a fancy dress party, most men shudder and run for the hills, in England they run for their closets. I come from a tiny village on the rainy wind swept east coast of England called Brancaster Staithe. A few years ago, I took an American friend of mine to a trivia quiz in the local pub, The Jolly Sailors. We walked in to find much of the village there, around 70 people, divided into teams. Teams dressed as their team names: the milkmaids, the dancing nuns, the Girl Scouts, and so on. Most of them, local hard working men, either fisherman or farm workers, all dressed as women. It’s a national affliction. I do not mention this as an excuse, but rather as a reason behind my enthusiasm for this particular part.
Lady Bracknell is a woman on a mission: to get her only daughter married; and not just married, but married to someone who fits in to her rigid strictures of social life. She is described in the play as a “gorgon”, and it is true that she embodies the worst characteristics of the English upper classes run amok. Insensitive to anything but her own goals, she rides roughshod over the emotional sensitivities of others and cheerfully denies the reality of anything with which she does not agree.
How could anyone not want to play a character like that?
See you at the theatre.