Behind the Monocle – Robert Throckmorton Talks about ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’
Born into a storytelling family, acting came naturally to Robert Throckmorton. A Richmond native, Throckmorton got his start acting in school productions and then pursued it as a major in college at the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Connecticut. He has also studied in London at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, which was “the highlight” of his life.
As someone who loves to act, the opportunity to play Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest, arguably Oscar Wilde’s most popular play, was exciting for him. The Importance of Being Earnest puts a spin on the Shakespearian question of “what’s in a name?”
“I’ve always loved the play, the English speaking theatre and the role itself is just a legendary role. Jacquie O’ Connor, the managing director of Henley Street, kind of planted the idea in my head back in the summer, “ said Throckmorton.
Lady Bracknell is indeed a legendary character, a “monster without being a myth” as Worthington describes her. Bracknell’s character despises Ernest Worthing, the man who is in love with her daughter, Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn is infatuated with the name Ernest which is Worthington’s pseudonym—his real name is Jack Worthing.
Bracknell is an astute, British authoritarian who is conservative and values natural ignorance, which she describes as a “delicate exotic fruit.” After Bracknell is informed of Worthington and Gwendolyn’s engagement, she is determined to break them up. When controversy surrounds Ernest’s name because of Algernon (Gwendolyn’s cousin), Bracknell makes matters very complicated for everyone involved.
When describing Bracknell in his own words, Throckmorton said, “She is just quintessentially a domineering, opinionated and imperious character.” When playing someone of these unattractive attributes, Throckmorton tries to hold a mirror to himself and find something that they both have in common so that he may bring life to his character and make her as believable as possible. He prepares to play her by understanding the specificity of the English language and of English dialect and the norms in Victorian England (the time period of the play). Even with hours of practice, Throckmorton still makes time to enjoy the play.
“My favorite parts are the quintessential scenes, if not for my character then for the whole play, when there’s an interview scene between Lady Bracknell and Jack/Ernest Worthing where she’s sizing him up to see whether he’s marriage material for her daughter. Much of the commentary on Victorian England comes up there because she is not looking for someone who is a good character. She’s looking at how stylish he is, how much money does he have, money, position, name and just very superficial things. The way it plays out is so funny and so much fun to play because there’s a lot of discovery in the scene and it’s also such a well known scene,” said Throckmorton when describing his favorite part of the play.
Throckmorton will put his fresh spin on Lady Bracknell starting September 25, 2013 in this co-production by The Richmond Triangle Players, Henley Street Theatre, and Richmond Shakespeare at the RTP theater for the low price of $15. you can pick up tickets here.
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