25 July : Last night, on the occasion of the school’s 25th anniversary, members of the Ex-Vivekites Association (EVA) gave a spectacular performance of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” at the recently completed Vivek High School auditorium. Ex-students of different batches from far and wide came together and rehearsed for a month before performing this timeless British comedy for the Chandigarh public as well as the current staff and student body of the school.
The ex-students chose this play for Wilde’s clever wit, and use of epigrams and puns in satirizing late 19th century British society. “After a number of years experimenting with more contemporary subjects and scripts on stage, our intention was to take the city and Vivek High School back to the golden era of British comedy,” says Director and actor Rattanamol S. Johal, a pass out of the Batch of 2005. This play, set in late 19th century England, brings to light the whims and idiosyncrasies of a group of upper class individuals. First performed at St. James Theatre in London on 14 February 1895, it has come to be one of the most loved British comedies of all time.
As the play opened, the audience was introduced to Algernon (Rattanamol Johal), a young, dashing, aristocratic Londoner with “nothing but his debts to depend upon,” leading a lifestyle fit for a prince. Mr. Jack Worthing (Uday Keith) aka Ernest from the country paid him a visit and we quickly learned that both men were leading a secret life. Algernon had invented a permanent invalid named Bunbury, whom he went to visit in the country each time his social commitments in London become boring and tiresome (he calls this activity “Bunburying”). Jack relied on an imaginary debauched younger brother living in London to get away from his own life in the country. In London he used the pseudonym Ernest while courting Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen (Nina Bhaika).
As the narrative progressed, Jack’s mysterious past became a matter of concern for Gwendolen’s mother, Lady Bracknell (Chitvan Keith), and Algernon took a trip to Jack’s country manor under the guise of his younger brother Ernest. Further deepening this quagmire, he fell in love with Jack’s ward Cecily (Nanki Aurora), and both girls found themselves competing for the affections of the fictional Ernest. Confusion and chaos ensued…
Mannat Johal, essaying the role of Miss Prism, described the underlying theme of the play by quoting from Oscar Wilde himself, “It is the spectator, and not life that art mirrors.”
For all the participants, cast and crew, it was a wonderful opportunity to give back to their alma mater and relive past plays performed on the school stage. Amer Singh, Chharun Goel, and Aditya Kaul say, “This play has been a wonderful bonding experience, among all its participants, as well as with the school. It’s been a summer well spent!”
The audience too was delighted with the theatrical experience. “The costumes, the sets, even the music between each act created a wonderful ambience for the actors to perform their roles, which they did with great skill,” said Swarn Kahlon, a regular theater-goer in the city.