Bunburying - The Importance of Being Adam Perchard

Dr Adam Perchard bursts onto the stage in their sequinned green cloak, belting Gloria by Laura Branigan with complete ease. They have a booming voice that could fill a concert hall, but in the setting of an underground cabaret lounge, their power is perfectly calibrated for the intimate crowd.

Perchard assures the audience that nonsense is going to play a huge role in the evening’s entertainment. The fact is, Perchard, with their Oxford education and PhD in English Literature, can make even the most nonsensical of ideas make sense.

They set the scene: Oscar Wilde, the prolific writer and flaming queer of the Victorian era, who loved his wife but also had male lovers, writes The Importance of Being Earnest. A comedy about double lives and hiding one’s true identity, the story becomes a celebrated work of literature, while the author is thrown into prison for his own double life. Is Perchard’s incomplete life story hence like Earnest Worthing or Oscar Wilde’s? Does it end in happiness or tragedy?

For a delightful hour, Dr Adam Perchard recounts the much-loved Victorian work through a mix of exposition and reenactments. They do little to transform into the different characters, yet it is always clear who they’re playing. After all, Perchard is an expert, having spent their lives taking on different characters and inventing various personas to hide their true selves.

Throughout the performance, Perchard stops the scene at cliff-hangers. The cliff-hangers are formulaic and cheeky, and the audience, loving both the story and storyteller, are completely in on the gag, and respond with great appreciation.

Perchard’s personal stories are comical and deeply relatable to any closeted queer, which they insist are 85% of audience members currently present in the room. “I can smell mothballs because this is a closet,” they tease, before smoothly making a point about how the need for anyone to hide their true selves is still as relevant over a century after The Importance of Being Earnest was written.

This performer’s charm allows them to make salient points without lecturing. Their monologue is interspersed with song, as they belt to Bowie and Prince, queer royalty whose campy, proud existence naturally command an audience, making bold statements on queerness and celebrating self authenticity simply by being. Perchard even cheekily refers to themselves as “the Evita of trans people” after their penultimate music number.

An effortless entertainer who does not need to do much to work a crowd, Perchard even introduces an interactive element: “A HANDBAG?!?!”

The line, perhaps the most famous in The Importance of Being Earnest, places great weight on any actor who delivers it. What better than to grab three drunk audience members onstage to present their rendition of it?

In a heartfelt moment at the very end, Perchard talks about how blessed they have been to discover that all versions of themselves have indeed been true and honest. Paying homage to the final line of Oscar Wilde’s story, Perchard hopes the audience continue to celebrate the each other’s authenticity, and understands “the vital importance of being… honest.”

This show was reviewed on the 1st March 2024 at Crazy Coqs, London.  

Review written by Vic Chen

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Photo credit: Peanut Factory Studio

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