What is steampunk?

etc's vision of a steampunk setting for such an iconic 19th century comedy may at first glance seem puzzling but director Steve Brigden  is confident the quirky twist will add an extra frisson to the entertainment.

Jules Verne and H. G. Wells are commonly cited as the instigators of the concept, but the expression steampunk is believed to have been used first by American sci-fi  novelist K. W. Jeter in 1987. 

During the 1990s, it percolated as fan culture based mainly in science fiction and graphic novels. Then around 2006 a countercultural community emerged soon after the appearance of the iPhone, a now-ubiquitous device that typifies the depersonalised nature of today's consumer technologies. 

By 2013, an IBM study based on quantitative and demographic analysis of social media posited that steampunk was the “next big thing.” Around the same time, pop star Justin Bieber co-opted steampunk style for a Christmas music video, and a national Prada campaign featured celebrities like Willem Dafoe in steampunk-inspired garb. 

Far more than a niche genre of science fiction, steampunk is now a decidedly material culture. Its fashions echo late 19th-century romanticism, the unconventional dandy aesthetes epitomized by Oscar Wilde, our playwright in question, who was a socialist who once quipped that “the one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it”.

Today steampunks use elaborate costumes, prosthetics, and other accessories to become performing cyborgs.

Along with clothing, thousands of second-wave “makers” around the world (as evidenced on Etsy.com) create accoutrements and a wide variety of gadgets, especially through the antiquing of disposable, mass-produced goods.

Our costume designer Susan Burton will be bringing this vision to life for the characters in the play and the set design will reflect the concept in sound and vision.

Audience members will be very welcome to dress in steam punk style if wished!