When Oscar Wilde bets that actress Olivia Snow can deceive guests at a house party into believing that she is wealthy aristocratic beauty Genevieve Lamb, Genevieve’s brother Stephen agrees to pretend she is his sister. Meanwhile, back in London, Genevieve wagers that she can pass herself off as Olivia and sets out with Oscar and Olivia’s young friend Lily for a night on the town. These are not the only deceptions that are practiced, and they initiate a series of highly unlikely events that include a supposed murder, theft, abduction, imprisonment, and innumerable coincidences. In the process the protagonists encounter an equally unlikely cast of eccentric characters. The plot soon descends into farce: in her acknowledgements the author even mentions her gratitude to those who suggested she increase ‘the silliness factor’.
As one might expect, there are the ingredients here of Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest. Indeed, his mother absent-mindedly suggests the title when he tells her that he is thinking of writing a play based on what happened: ‘People pretending to be other people. People falling in love with people they don’t know. I’ve swapped names and changed genders and altered most of the storyline.’
Wilde’s play was much better, of course, but it is intriguing to identify names like Bracknell, Prism, and Bunbury. Recommended to those who enjoy farce.