Karen Dunbar on playing Lady Bracknell

An interview with Karen Dunbar

Congratulations on your role as Lady Bracknell in Perth Theatre’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest. How do you plan to make the role your own?

Well I’m in a good position already as I get to use my own accent. A Scottish Lady Bracknell feels like a head start in terms of comedy but also in the playing of the class system. we live in interesting times ...

Lady Bracknell has been described as an inveterate snob and social climber, but a comedy icon - what is your view on the character? Does she have any redeeming characteristics?

Of course, Lady B is a big snob but I think she’s quite warm at heart and also has some deep insecurity (as most social climbers do: why climb if you don’t feel low down?!). This vulnerability along with her wit gives a wee crack into liking her and maybe even identifying with her.

How do you go about expressing well known lines/speeches? “A handbag?”

Aw I’ve got ideas! I was talking to my friend about it and I said “when I get the feed line I’m going to turn to the audience, smile, wink and gesture to them and get them to shout ‘A handbag!’”, and my friend just looked blankly at me. she was awfy relieved when I told her I was only kidding.

What is the continued relevance of works like The Importance of Being Earnest in our times?

As I said, we live in interesting times and between the political upheavals and class schisms, this play can give real insight into what is wrong but also how to move forward. Because it’s done with Wilde’s brilliant humour and depth, it makes it not only hugely entertaining but also thought-provoking and a good talking point.

Who do you think should come and see you in the play and what should they expect?

I’d say this play is open to everyone young and old, whoever you are, wherever you’re from. it’s got something for us all: huge laughs, smart dialogue, big costumes and an even bigger heart.

You are best known for some of your TV roles and characters, can we expect a bit of some of your TV characters in your performance?

There’ll always be a bit of my TV characters in anything I do because those characters are all different parts of me. but Lady Bracknell is such a unique persona I think she’ll stand out from the old crowd.

Are there any similarities between you and the character?

Oh ... the warm heart bit I hope?! and probably her naivety. She is pretty ignorant in some ways, as am I. They say it’s bliss ...

What was your last theatre role?

I played God in the Still Game show at the Hydro. what a thing that was: 20 feet high looking out at 10,000 faces. I felt a bit God-like (till I fell off ma cloud!).

Other roles include Casca in Phyllida Lloyd’s Julius Caesar in London, and climbing the Beckettonian mountain Happy Days - an 80 minute monologue: ooft!

Do you prefer theatre or TV/film?

They’re both really enjoyable. Theatre is more immediate though and I do like to hear the audience laugh (hopefully at the jokes!).

Have you any connections to Perth or Perth Theatre?

Yes, I lived in Perth for a year in my early twenties. I love the city and the surrounding countryside. I’ve had many a dauner up Kinnoull Hill. The colours of the trees as they change in autumn... breath-taking! I also used to DJ at The Ice Factory and was a student at Perth Rock School but I had to drop out when I got a job. I’m awfy fond o Perth and really looking forward to being back in its familiar, beautiful places.

The Importance of Being Earnest is sponsored by local gin company Bright Spirits. What’s your tipple?

I’m a devoted water drinker, but I do celebrate the gin and such as a social lubricant. Cheers!

20 February 2020