Comedy by Oscar Wilde.
Prim-and-proper John (Jack) Worthing is in love with the equally prim-and-proper Gwendolyn Fairfax. His friend, Algernon (Algy) Moncrieff, is in love with Cecily Cardew. But both Gwendolyn and Cecily are in love with Ernest. Add the magnificently imposing Lady Bracknell, a nanny with a dubious story about a handbag and the result is a delightful entertainment bursting with Oscar Wilde's trademark one-liners.
Subtitled 'A trivial comedy for serious people', Oscar Wilde's timeless comedy elegantly lampoons the hypocrisies of Victorian society resulting in a plot that twists and fizzles with some of the finest dialogue to be found in theatre - and as fresh and funny as when it was first performed in 1895.
The original 1895 production of The Importance Of Being Earnest had it's run cut short due to Oscar Wilde's growing notoriety in the public courts - firstly with his unsuccesful libel case against the Marquess of Queensberry and then the start his trial for 'gross indecency' - for homosexuality, something that would not be decriminalised in Britain until the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act 1967. Oscar Wilde was ultimately found guilty and was sentenced to prison with hard labour. George Alexander, the manager of The St James's Theatre, did though successfully revive his original production of The Importance Of Being Earnest four times over the following 18 years.
Arguably the most notable production of The Importance Of Being Earnest was John Gielgud's 1939 revival in which he played the role of 'John Worthing' (a role that he had already played in London nine years previously in 1930). It was this 1939 production that introduced Edith Evans as 'Lady Bracknell' - a role that she is most closely associated with, and which she reprised for Anthony Asquith's 1952 film version. It was also John Gielgud's production that first garnered official Royal patronage for the comedy through attendance at special charity performances: the Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester on Tuesday 31 January 1939; Queen Mary, the Queen Mother to the then reigning monarch, King George VI, on Tuesday 7 February 1939; and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at a special 'one-off' matinee revival on Thursday 11 April 1946.
The Importance Of Being Earnest London Trivia:
The now demolished St James's Theatre was located in King Street, St James, opposite Bury Street - and was therefore the closest 'West End' theatre to Algernon (Algy) Moncrieff's Mayfair apartment in Act One which is located in real-life Half Moon Street, off Piccadilly - and just a ten minute walk from the St James's Theatre.
The longest continuously running West End production was George Alexander's second revival which played at the 1,200-seater St James's Theatre for nine months during 1909/1910.
Judi Dench has played two roles in London: firstly as 'Cecily Cardew' (opposite Alec McCowen as 'Algy) in Michael Benthall's 1959 revival; and secondly as 'Lady Bracknell' in Peter Hall's 1982 revival for the National Theatre.
Martin Jarvis and Nigel Havers have both played the two male lead parts of John Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff opposite each other, twice, 32 years apart!: their first time was in Peter Hall's 1982 revival; and their second time was in Lucy Bailey's 2014 revival.
The role of 'Lady Bracknell' has been played in London three times by male actors in drag: firstly by Teddy Green in Denise Coffey's 1977 revival; then by Patrick Fyffe (as his alter-ego 'Dame Hilda Bracket') in Lou Stein's 1987 revival; and, most recently, by David Suchet in Adrian Noble's 2015 revival. Although this is not common, other West End examples include Paul O'Grady (as his alter-ego 'Lily Savage') playing the role of 'Miss Hannigan' in Martin Charnin's 1998 revival of Annie at the Victoria Palace and Danny La Rue playing the role of 'Dolly Levi' in Peter Coe's 1984 revival of Hello, Dolly! at the Prince of Wales Theatre.
There has been one musical adaptation in the West End. John Hugh Dean's 1984 The Importance was originally scheduled to have a limited ten week run at the small 440-seater Ambassadors Theatre but, following poor reviews, it closed after just three weeks.
Original London West End Production 1895 with Rose Leclercq
Opened 14 February 1895, Closed 8 May 1895 at the St James's Theatre (now demolished)
The original cast featured George Alexander as 'John Worthing', Allan Aynesworth as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Rose Leclercq as 'Lady Bracknell', Irene Vanbrugh as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Evelyn Millard as 'Cecily Cardew', Mrs. George Canninge as 'Miss Prism', H. H. Vincent as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', F. Kinsey Peile as 'Lane' and Frank Dyall as 'Merriman'. Directed by George Alexander with designs by H P Hall and Walter Hann.
This production had a shorter than expected run due to Oscar Wilde's increasing public notoriety. First the Queensberry libel court case opened on 3 April 1895 which lead to the production's producer George Alexander removing Wilde's name from the play's publicity a few days later. Wilde's trial for 'gross indecency' then opened on 26 April 1895, and this production finally closed 12 days later, on Wednesday 8 May 1895.
1st West End Revival 1902 with M Talbot
Opened 7 January 1902, Closed 28 February 1902 at the St James's Theatre (now demolished)
The original cast featured George Alexander as 'John Worthing', W Graham Browne as 'Algernon Moncrieff', M Talbot as 'Lady Bracknell', Margaret Halstan as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Lilian Braithwaite as 'Cecily Cardew', Vera Laverton as 'Miss Prism', E Lyall Swete as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Herbert Dansey as 'Lane' and R E Goddard as 'Merriman'. Directed by George Alexander.
Rather than directly use Oscar Wilde's name, this production was promoted instead as being by 'the author of Lady Windermere's Fan'.
2nd West End Revival 1909 with Helen Rous
Opened 30 November 1909, Closed 23 September 1910 at the St James's Theatre (now demolished)
The original cast featured George Alexander as 'John Worthing', Allan Aynesworth as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Helen Rous as 'Lady Bracknell', Stella Patrick Campbell as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Rosalie Toller as 'Cecily Cardew', Alice Beet as 'Miss Prism', E Vivian Reynolds as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', T Weguelix as 'Lane' and Erik Stirling as 'Merriman'. Directed by George Alexander.
This production was promoted as being the return of the two original lead actors to the roles they created, namely George Alexander as 'John Worthing' and Allan Aynesworth as 'Algernon Moncrieff'. Allan Aynesworth stayed with the production for it's full run of nine months - the longest continuous West End run of this comedy.
3rd West End Revival 1911 with Mrs G Kemmis
Opened 26 June 1911, Closed 21 July 1911 at the St James's Theatre (now demolished)
The original cast featured Hamilton Revelle as 'John Worthing', A E Matthews as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Mrs G Kemmis as 'Lady Bracknell', Dorothy Green as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Gladys Cooper as 'Cecily Cardew', Alice Beet as 'Miss Prism', E Vivian Reynolds as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Arthur Royston as 'Lane' and G Trevor Roller as 'Merriman'. Directed by George Alexander.
This production was notable for Gladys Cooper appearing in an early 'non-musical' role.
4th London West End Revival 1913 with Helen Rous
Opened 15 February 1913, Closed 7 March 1913 at the St James's Theatre (now demolished)
The original cast featured Gerald Ames as 'John Worthing', A E Matthews as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Helen Rous as 'Lady Bracknell', Dorothy Fane as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Rosalie Toller as 'Cecily Cardew', Alice Beet as 'Miss Prism', E Vivian Reynolds as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Alfred Harris as 'Lane' and Austin Fehrman as 'Merriman'. Directed by George Alexander.
5th London West End Revival 1923 with Margaret Scudamore
Opened 21 November 1923, Closed 12 January 1924 at the Haymarket Theatre
The original cast featured Leslie Faber as 'John Worthing', John Deverell as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Margaret Scudamore as 'Lady Bracknell', Doris Kendal as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Nancy Atkin as 'Cecily Cardew', Louise Hampton as 'Miss Prism', H O Nicholson as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Douglas Jefferies as 'Lane' and Walton Palmer as 'Merriman'. Directed by Allan Aynesworth.
London Revival (Lyric Hammersmith) 1930 with Mabel Terry-Lewis
Opened 7 July 1930, Closed 6 October 1930 at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith
The original cast featured John Gielgud as 'John Worthing', Anthony Ireland as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Mabel Terry-Lewis as 'Lady Bracknell', Iris Baker as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Heather Angel as 'Cecily Cardew', Jean Cadell as 'Miss Prism', Charles Staite as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Richard Caldicot as 'Lane' and Scott Russell as 'Merriman'. Directed by Nigel Playfair with designs by Michael Weight.
6th London West End Revival 1934 with Athene Seyler
Opened 5 February 1934, Closed 3 March 1934 at the Old Vic Theatre
The original cast featured Roger Livesey as 'John Worthing', George Curzon as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Athene Seyler as 'Lady Bracknell', Flora Robson as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Ursula Jeans as 'Cecily Cardew', Elsa Lanchester as 'Miss Prism', Charles Laughton as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Morland Graham as 'Lane' and James Mason as 'Merriman'. Directed by Tyrone Guthrie with designs by Molly McArthur.
This production was notable for being an early (though minor) stage role for the future Hollywood film actor James Mason.
7th London West End Revival 1939 with Edith Evans
Opened 31 January 1939, Closed 21 February 1939 (matinees) at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre)
Returned 16 August 1939, Closed 2 September 1939 at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre)
Transferred 14 September 1939, Closed 16 September 1939 at the Golders Green Hippodrome
Returned 26 December 1939, Closed Saturday, Feb 24, 1940 at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre)
The original January 1939 cast featured John Gielgud as 'John Worthing', Ronald Ward as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Edith Evans as 'Lady Bracknell', Joyce Carey as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Angela Baddeley as 'Cecily Cardew', Margaret Rutherford as 'Miss Prism', David Horne as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Leon Quartermaine as 'Lane' and Felix Irwin as 'Merriman'.
The original cast for the August 1939 run featured John Gielgud as 'John Worthing', Jack Hawkins as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Edith Evans as 'Lady Bracknell', Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Peggy Ashcroft as 'Cecily Cardew', Margaret Rutherford as 'Miss Prism', George Howe as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Pardoe Woodman as 'Lane' and Kingstone Trollope as 'Merriman'. All seven principles remained in the cast through to Saturday 24 February 1940.
Directed by John Gielgud with designs by Motley (Margaret Harris, Sophie Harris and Elizabeth Montgomery Wilmot).
Originally presented for eight 'All-Star Charity Matinees' (Jan 31, Feb 2, 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21). Seven of the performances were in aid of various theatrical chariies with the first matinee on Tuesday 31 January 1939 was attended by Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. The matinee on Tuesday 7 February 1939 was was held in aid of the Hospital for Women in Soho Square, and was attended by Queen Mary, who was at the time the Queen Mother to the then reigning monarch, King George VI. Following the last matinee performance on Tuesday 21 February 1939, the cast performed a short selection of scenes and excerpts from the play that was broadcast on BBC Radio on Tuesday evening 21 February 1939. During this matinee season, the Globe Theatre's evening show was the long running comedy Robert's Wife by St John Ervine and starring Edith Evans and Owen Nares.
The production was such a success that it returned in a re-cast staging in August 1939 for what was originally scheduled to be a limited six week season up to Saturday 30 September 1939. But the run was brought to an abrupt end when Britain declared war on Germany on Sunday 3 September 1939 - with all West End theatres closed with immediate effect.
The production was presented for a very short run at the Golder's Green Hippodrome in North London. West End theatres began to re-open slowly from the end of September, and this production returned to the Globe Theatre on Boxing Day, 26 December 1939.
8th London West End Revival 1942 with Edith Evans
Opened 14 October 1942, Closed 12 December 1942 at the Phoenix Theatre
The original cast featured John Gielgud as 'John Worthing', Cyril Ritchard as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Edith Evans as 'Lady Bracknell', Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Peggy Ashcroft as 'Cecily Cardew', Jean Cadell as 'Miss Prism', J H Roberts as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Deering Wells as 'Lane' and Charles Maunsell as 'Merriman'. Directed by John Gielgud with designs by Motley (Margaret Harris, Sophie Harris and Elizabeth Montgomery Wilmot).
This was a re-staged and re-cast revival of the earlier 1939 production.
London West End Charity Matinee 1946 with Edith Evans
11 April 1946 (matinee) at the Haymarket Theatre
A charity matinee performance held on Thursday 11 April 1946 with John Gielgud and Edith Evans reprising their celebrated roles as 'John Worthing' and 'Lady Bracknell'. Held in aid of King George's Pension Fund for Actors and Actresses and attended by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
9th London West End Revival 1959 with Fay Compton
Opened 13 October 1959, Closed 9 April 1960 (in repertory) at the Old Vic Theatre
The original cast featured John Justin as 'John Worthing', Alec McCowen as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Fay Compton as 'Lady Bracknell', Barbara Jefford as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Judi Dench as 'Cecily Cardew', Rosalind Atkinson as 'Miss Prism', Miles Malleson as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Norman Scace as 'Lane' and William McAllister as 'Merriman'. Directed by Michael Benthall with designs by Desmond Heeley.
10th London West End Revival 1968 with Isabel Jeans
Previewed 7 February 1968, Opened 8 February 1968, Closed 12 October 1968 at the Haymarket Theatre
The original cast featured Daniel Massey as 'John Worthing', John Standing as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Isabel Jeans as 'Lady Bracknell', Helen Weir as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Pauline Collins as 'Cecily Cardew', Flora Robson as 'Miss Prism', Robert Eddison as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Geoffrey Edwards as 'Lane' and Lee Fox as 'Merriman'. Directed by Robert Chetwyn with designs by Michael Annals.
The preview on 7 February 1968 was held in aid of the Combined Theatrical Charities and was attended by the Queen Mother (she had previously attended a charity performance of this comedy with her husband King George VI in 1946).
London Revival (Shaw Theatre) 1974 with Betty Marsden
Previewed 6 March 1974, Opened 8 March 1974, Closed 20 April 1974 at the Shaw Theatre
The cast featured Richard Kay as 'John Worthing', Terry Taplin as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Betty Marsden as 'Lady Bracknell', Polly Adams as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Louise Purnell as 'Cecily Cardew', Rosamund Greenwood as 'Miss Prism', Edward Jewesbury as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Kenneth Benda as 'Lane' and Gordon Richardson as 'Merriman'. Directed by Peter James with designs by Bernard Culshaw.
Presented by The Dolphin Theatre Company.
London Revival (Greenwich Theatre) 1975 with Irene Handl
Previewed 19 March 1975, Opened 20 March 1975, Closed 26 April 1975 at the Greenwich Theatre
The cast featured David Horovitch as 'John Worthing', Robert Swann as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Irene Handl as 'Lady Bracknell', Angela Down as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Charlotte Cornwell as 'Cecily Cardew', Joan Sanderson as 'Miss Prism', Benjamin Whitrow as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Alan Hay as 'Lane' and Alan Brown as 'Merriman'. Directed by Jonathan Miller with sets by Patrick Robertson, costumes by Rosemary Vercoe and lighting by Nick Chelton and Graham Phoenix.
London Revival (The Roundhouse) 1977 with Ann Firbank
Previewed 14 December 1977, Opened 15 December 1977, Closed 14 January 1978 at the Roundhouse
The cast featured John Harding as 'John Worthing', Martin Connor as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Ann Firbank as 'Lady Bracknell', Rosie Kerslake as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Ann Hasson as 'Cecily Cardew', Brenda Peters as 'Miss Prism', Edward Petherbridge as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble' and Tenniel Evans as 'Merriman / Lane'. Directed by Tenniel Evans with designs by Stephanie Howard and lighting by Brian Harris.
London Revival (Young Vic Theatre) 1977 with Terry Green
Previewed 2 December 1977, Opened 20 December 1977, Closed Thursday 23 February 1978 (in repertory) at the Young Vic
The original cast featured David Henry as 'John Worthing', Simon Chandler as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Teddy Green as 'Lady Bracknell', Amanda Boxer as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Natasha Pyne as 'Cecily Cardew', Rosalind Boxall as 'Miss Prism', Job Stewart as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Ian Taylor as 'Lane' and Hugh Hastings as 'Merriman'. Directed by Denise Coffey with sets by by Robert Dein, costumes by Alix Stone and lighting by Michael Alvey.
11th London West End Revival 1980 with Margaretta Scott
Opened 14 October 1980, Closed 8 November 1980 at the Old Vic Theatre
The cast featured Richard Easton as 'John Worthing', David Downer as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Margaretta Scott as 'Lady Bracknell', Polly Adams as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Isabelle Amyer as 'Cecily Cardew', Joyce Grant as 'Miss Prism', James Bree as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Desmond Jordan as 'Lane / Moulton' and Terence Soall as 'Merriman' with Kenneth Waller as 'Mr Gribsby' and Kathy Van Den Elst as 'the Maid'. Directed by Frank Hauser with designs by Colin Winslow, lighting by Chris Ellis and sound by David Wells.
A transfer from the Leicester Haymarket Theatre of the 'original' 4-act version.
London Revival (National Theatre) 1982 with Judi Dench
Previewed 9 September 1982, Opened 16 September 1982, Closed 24 March 1983 (in repertory) at the NT Lyttelton Theatre
The cast featured Martin Jarvis as 'John Worthing', Nigel Havers as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Judi Dench as 'Lady Bracknell', Zoe Wanamaker as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Elizabeth Garvie as 'Cecily Cardew', Anna Massey as 'Miss Prism', Paul Rogers as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Brian Kent as 'Lane' and John Gill as 'Merriman'. Directed by Peter Hall with designs and lighting by John Bury and sound by Chris Montgomery.
London West End Musical Version 1984 with Judy Campbell
The Importance the Musical
Previewed 23 May 1984, Opened 31 May 1984, Closed 23 June 1984 at the Ambassadors Theatre
The cast featured Patrick Ryecart as 'Jack Worthing', David Firth as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Judy Campbell as 'Lady Bracknell', Ruth Mayo as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Karen Lancaster as 'Cecily Cardew', Sheila Bernette as 'Miss Prism' and Robert Doming as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble'. Directed by Tony Craven with choreography by Sheila O'Neill, sets by Paul Wright, costumes by Linda Matheson and lighting by Mark Pritchard.
"The Musical Version of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest" - with music, lyrics and adaptation by John Hugh Dean. Presented by The Little Theatre of Comedy Company. The production was scheduled for a limited 10 week run up to Saturday 4 August 1984, but following opening to poor reviews it closed after just three weeks.
12th London West End Revival 1987 with Wendy Hiller
Previewed 7 September 1987, Opened 11 September 1987, Closed 17 October 1987 at the Royalty Theatre (now Peacock Theatre)
The cast featured Clive Francis as 'John Worthing', Denis Lawson as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Wendy Hiller as 'Lady Bracknell', Gabrielle Drake as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Natalie Ogle as 'Cecily Cardew', Phyllida Law as 'Miss Prism', Harold Innocent as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Ken Wynne as 'Lane' and Patrick Ludlow as 'Merriman'. Directed by Donald Sinden with designs by Carl Tomes.
Lucy Gutteridge was originally scheduled to play 'Cecily Cardew' but she withdrew prior to the start of previews. Presented by the newly formed production company The Royalty Theatre Company as the first of a series of short (six week runs) of late 19th-century and early 20th century plays.
13th London West End Revival 1987 with Dame Hilda Bracket
Previewed 28 October 1987, Opened 2 November 1987, Closed 6 February 1988 at the Whitehall Theatre (now Trafalgar Studios)
The cast featured Simon Dutton as 'John Worthing', Robin Kermode as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Patrick Fyffe (as his alter-ego 'Dame Hilda Bracket') as 'Lady Bracknell', Tara Ward as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Kate O'Sullivan as 'Cecily Cardew', George Logan (as his alter-ego 'Doctor Evadne Hinge') as 'Miss Prism', Fred Evans as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble' and Chubby Oates as 'Lane / Merriman'. Directed and adapted by Lou Stein with designs by Norman Coates and lighting by Spike Gaden.
14th London West End Revival 1993 with Maggie Smith
Previewed 22 February 1993, Opened 9 March 1993, Closed 24 July 1993 at the Aldwych Theatre
The cast featured Alex Jennings as 'John Worthing', Richard E. Grant as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Maggie Smith as 'Lady Bracknell', Susannah Harker as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Claire Skinner as 'Cecily Cardew', Margaret Tyzack as 'Miss Prism', Richard Pearson as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Michael Stroud as 'Lane' and Hugh Munro as 'Merriman'. Directed by Nicholas Hytner with designs by Bob Crowley, lighting by Paul Pyant and sound by Gary Giles.
"This exquisitely artificial satire on high-society insincerity is actor-proof, director-proof and very nearly recession-proof. It has an imperishable life of its own. The great Dame Maggie Smith, as Lady Bracknell, is directed by Nicholas Hytner, the hottest director in town, for a dazzling new production that cannot fail. Bob Crowley's soaring, surreal sets heighten the artificiality of a play heroically facetious in tone. The divine Dame Maggie has been known to over-act. Fortunately Lady Bracknell is a part that screams out for over-acting. She is one of the great monsters of the English stage. In Dame Maggie's wonderfully camp, saucer-eyed performance, you feel that this Lady Bracknell might even keep a gin bottle secreted about her person... Richard E, Grant's Algernon, is a decadent-looking dandy in crushed velvet pantaloons, a flamboyant contrast to Alex Jennings' Young Fogeyish John Worthing. Susannah Harker is every inch Lady Bracknell's daughter, meeting her match in Claire Skinner's deceptively demure Cecily Cardew... but the evening belongs to Maggie Smith." The Daily Express
"I've no doubt that most discussion of The Importance Of Being Earnest will centre on Maggie Smith. But it pains me to say that I found her gross and mannered Lady Bracknell the least satisfying aspect of a generally pleasurable evening. The good news is that Nicholas Hytner and his designer, Bob Crowley, capture the delicate absurdity of Wilde's world. Algernon's flat is a slanted-roof affair where crimson hued walls shade into carnation-green. The second act garden is a visual masterpiece, and even the last act morning-room, with its sloping walls and receding perspectives, suggests a world that is out of kilter. This seems to me precisely right since Wilde's play creates an unreal world into which it projects real people... Alex Jennings' John Worthing is the performance of the evening... And there is first-rate support from Claire Skinner as Cecily, mixing an iron will with straw-hatted innocence, from Margaret Tyzack as a toothsome Miss Prism heaven-bent on matrimony and from Richard Pearson as a Chasuble susceptible to draughts and flattery. But there remains the problem of Maggie Smith's Lady Bracknell. She gets laughs by the bucketful but I get no sense of a strongly identified character... Dame Maggie is a bundle of fussiness forever fiddling. She also constantly seeks laughs instead of letting them come to her... The result is to unbalance art otherwise excellent evening. Wilde was not writing a star vehicle for Lady Bracknell... But, in stealing the show, Dame Maggie's hyperactive performance subtly undermines it." The Guardian
The Importance Of Being Earnest in London at the Aldwych Theatre previewed from 22 February 1993, opened on 9 March 1993 and closed on 24 July 1993
15th London West End Revival 1995 with Barbara Leigh-Hunt
Previewed 29 June 1995, Opened 7 July 1995, Closed 18 November 1995 at the Old Vic Theatre
The original cast featured Roger Allam as 'John Worthing', Philip Franks as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Barbara Leigh-Hunt as 'Lady Bracknell', Abigail Cruttenden as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Jacqueline Defferary as 'Cecily Cardew', Rosalind Knight as 'Miss Prism', Patrick Godfrey as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble' and Martin Wimbush as 'Lane / Merriman'. Directed by Terry Hands with designs by Mark Bailey.
A '100th Anniversary Production', presented by the Birmingham Repertory Company.
16th London West End Revival 1999 with Patricia Routledge
Previewed 4 August 1999, Opened 10 August 1999, Closed 6 November 1999 at the Haymarket Theatre
The cast featured Adam Godley as 'John Worthing', Alan Cox as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Patricia Routledge as 'Lady Bracknell', Saskia Wickham as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Rebecca Johnson as 'Cecily Cardew', Sheila Reid as 'Miss Prism', Jonathan Cecil as 'Rev. Canon Chusuble', David Macmillan as 'Lane' and Thane Bettany as 'Merriman'. Directed by Christopher Morahan with designs by Peter Rice, lighting by Robert Bryan and sound by John Leonard.
Presented by the Chichester Festival Theatre.
"This Chichester Festival Theatre production, which won deservedly warm reviews in May, concentrates on Wilde's superficial wit rather than digging for his subversive subtext. It is a deft, quaintly respectful reading: the most radical thing about it is that Routledge's Lady Bracknell is a stone-faced social operator rather than the aristocratic gorgon tradition demands. The comic limelight, usually hogged by Lady Bracknell and her frivolous nephew Algernon (Alan Cox), is stolen here by Adam Godley's dufferish Jack Worthing and Saskia Wickham as his steely beloved, Gwendolen. Routledge's Lady Bracknell is sedate almost to the point of sedation, and she's nearly upstaged by her well-upholstered costumes. Her voice, an effortful monotone with a dying fall on each punchline, seems to emanate from somewhere deep in her bustle... Christopher Morahan's use of stage business and asides - like Peter Rice's hideous, chocolate-box sets - is oddly old-fashioned. Though staid, his production is thoroughly enjoyable and has flashes of brilliance: among them the odd linguistic lapse from Routledge's subdued Lady B, which reveal her fortune-hunting instincts. Above all, Morahan's production shows that Wilde's comedy - like the Queen Mother - has stood the test of time. And it's a lot funnier." The London Evening Standard
"This revival started out at Chichester, and Christopher Morahan's production adapts to the different stage with no evidence of strain... The play itself has been interpreted as a metaphor for the author's own secret life, with Algy's insatiable appetite for cucumber sandwiches - and almost everyone else reveals a passionate concern for food - substituting for more erotic fancies. There is no emphasis on this way of thinking here. Morahan gives us a decently acted, neatly detailed, thoroughly enjoyable production, with the young couples cleverly contrasted and the bassoon-voiced Patricia Routledge, fearsome in aubergine, crested with black feathers, as Lady Bracknell." The Times
"This new production of The Importance arrives in the West End from Chichester. Its greatest virtue is its simplicity: no dash here of Director's Theatre nor, more crucially, of star vehicle either. Patricia Routledge's Lady Bracknell is very simple: simply Wagnerian in her attack and sweep, simply an old-school contralto in her darkly shining port-soaked vocal tone, simply carved in implacable granite as she holds one position after another. When she turns her head away (as Jack graciously explains that Worthing "is a seaside resort"), the effect is momentous; and hilarious. But her performance has no special effects or gestures; she gives us unadulterated Bracknell - voice, intonation, stance and manners. She never steals the limelight from any of her colleagues; the force of her concentration adds to theirs. This is the classiest piece of acting that Routledge has given a theatre audience in the 1990s... From start to finish, this production is a happy, happy time in the theatre." The Financial Times
"Patricia Routledge is surely Chichester's patron saint (as yet, uncanonised). She's not merely the favourite telly star of the town's good burghers, she's one of them, she lives there (in something suitably posh and neo-Georgian)... Resplendent in papal purple, substantial and solidly upholstered, Miss R's Lady B is more of a tugboat than Dame Edith's famous aristocratic galleon. As Ernest, her daughter's suitor, details his humble handbag origins, she listens with chin wobbling in snobbish horror and incredulity. Her retort, in that Christmas pudding of a voice, that 'to marry into a cloakroom and form an alliance with a parcel' is not what she intends for Gwendolen has an unassailable confidence. As immovable as a mahogany wardrobe, she is a Lady not for turning - unless, of course, the price is right. But this is by no means a one-woman show. The pleasure of Christopher Mor-ahan's restrained, well-judged production is the way in which every member of the cast speaks Wildese as fluently and as effortlessly as breathing... And the delight of this play is that, in the end, everyone gets their heart's - and their head's - desire." The Mail on Sunday
The Importance Of Being Earnest in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 4 August 1999, opened on 10 August 1999 and closed on 6 November 1999
17th London West End Revival 2001 with Patricia Routledge
Previewed 17 January, Opened 23 January 2001, Closed 14 April 2001 at the Savoy Theatre
The cast featured Alister Petrie as 'John Worthing', Theo Fraser Steele as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Patricia Routledge as 'Lady Bracknell', Essie Davis as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Sarah Kants as 'Cecily Cardew', Beverley Dunn as 'Miss Prism', Jonathan Elsom as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Paul Stewart as 'Lane' and David Brierley as 'Merriman'. Directed by Christopher Morahan with designs by Peter Rice, lighting by Robert Bryan and sound by John Leonard.
Presented by the Chichester Festival Theatre. After a successful three month run at the Haymarket Theatre in 1999, this production now returns to the West End, once again starring Patricia Routledge as 'Lady Bracknell' who is joined by an entirely new cast.
"Having played Lady Bracknell on and off for the last 20 months in Chichester, London, Australia, New Zealand and now London again, it's not surprising, however, that [Patricia Routledge] sometimes appears to be playing in semi-detached isolation from her fellow players. But despite this disappointment, it's a pleasure to be caught up again in Wilde's comedy of snobbish manners. Anyone in search of escapist theatrical treats will find themselves surprisingly well-served by Christopher Morahan's much-travelled production... The garden, where Beverley Dunn's dull Prism and Jonathan Elsom's wild-haired Chasuble ineffectually woo each other, is miserably cut-price. But the romancing between the duplicitous John Worthing and Gwendolen has gathered Wildean comic force, thanks to the performances of Alistair Petrie and the appealing Australian actress Essie Davis as the lovers... Miss Routledge, shaking her head in contemptuous disbelief as Worthing admits to his railway origins, has her triumphant moments as well. Too often, though, she delivers Brack-nell direct to the audience rather than to the other actors. Indeed during Miss Prism's climactic revelations, Miss Routledge sits centre-stage, eyes apparently closed, head down, looking for all the world as if lost in reflection - or boredom. But while Petrie and Miss Davis, thorough going scene-stealers, are on stage, this Importance is a sheer delight." The London Evening Standard
"Christopher Morahan's production opened in Chichester in 1999, had a decent West End run, and has now returned to London's Savoy Theatre from a visit Down Under, with Patricia Routledge still in the role of Lady Bracknell but with every other part refilled, some with Australian performers. And Essie Davis, Sarah Kants and Beverley Dunn have done more than conquer the Mayfair accent. All three of them have gone far towards conquering Wilde. First, the leading men, who are British. Often it's hard to spot a difference between Jack Worthing, who has risen to wealth and position from the handbag in which he was discovered as a tot, and Algy Moncrieff, who amiably idles away his days in London. At worst, both can strike one as effete variations on Bosie Douglas. But while Theo Fraser Steele's Algy is a flimsy, tapering figure who lolls about spouting self-conscious epigrams, Petrie's Jack combines intelligence with the solidity Wilde surely wanted... That's a refreshing corrective to current theatrical habit, but so, even more obviously, is Jack's would-be fiancée, Essie Davis's Gwendolen. Once or twice I caught a hint of brassiness in her performance. Once or twice she overemphasised her interpretation, which is that, for all her beauty and grace, she's Lady Bracknell's daughter. But overall it works... One day she'll be reducing quaking roomfuls to silence with the haughty wit she's inherited from her dominant parent. As that parent, Routledge has changed since I saw her 18 months ago, mostly for the better. The chanting vibrato of her voice may still put you in mind of a lady bishop belting out the liturgy, but she's now more genuinely intimidating... Add Kants as a warm, strong Cecily, Dunn's emotionally susceptible Miss Prism and decent performances from everyone else, and the conclusion is irresistible. You don't die if you go to Australia, as Algy fears. You may even succeed in growing." The Times
"Christopher Morahan's production of The Importance of Being Earnest, first seen at Chichester two years ago, has now shown up at the Savoy. Patricia Routledge still plays Lady Bracknell, but otherwise the cast has been changed. Several of the newcomers are Australian, though there is nothing discernibly Australian in the way they walk and talk. Patricia Routledge gives an accomplished comic performance, as you'd expect, but it is vocally monotonous and (for what is required) lacking in class. Elsewhere, things are uneven. Essie Davis's excellent Gwendolen (perhaps one can discern some added Australian vigour there) and a sturdy Jack Worthing (Alistair Petrie) have to be set against a highly unprismatic Miss Prism (she looks more like a miniature Lady Bracknell) and a Canon Chasuble who is positively spooky. Some of the great lines survive, some get lost. It would be too much to say that the champagne is flat, but there are times when you have to look hard for the bubbles." The Sunday Telegraph
The Importance Of Being Earnest in London at the Savoy Theatre previewed from 17 January, opened on 23 January 2001 and closed on 14 April 2001
18th London West End Revival 2008 with Penelope Keith
Previewed 22 January 2008, Opened 29 January 2008, Closed 26 April 2008 at the Vaudeville Theatre
The cast featured Harry Hadden-Paton as 'John Worthing', William Ellis as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Penelope Keith as 'Lady Bracknell', Daisy Haggard as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Rebecca Night as 'Cecily Cardew', Janet Henfrey as 'Miss Prism', Tim Wylton as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Maxwell Hutcheon as 'Lane' and Roger Swaine as 'Merriman'. Directed by Peter Gill with designs by William Dudley, lighting by Stephen Wentworth and sound by Mike Beer.
Penelope Keith's recent West End theatre credits include 'Madame Arcati' in Thea Sharrock revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit (Savoy Theatre 2004). Peter Gill's recent London theatre directing credits include Patrick Hamilton's Gaslight (Old Vic Theatre 2007), John Osborne and Anthony Creighton's Epitaph for George Dillon (Harold Pinter Theatre 2006) and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet for the Royal Shakespeare Company (Noel Coward Theatre 2004).
"The Importance Of Being Earnest is a brilliant parody of English upper-class life, a life endearingly snobbish, defiantly idle and only remotely connected with reality. Peter Gill's production glitters like a many-faceted diamond... Penelope Keith is Lady Bracknell, holding the great trumpet voice in lofty restraint: a star giving a star performance, she knows that charisma is quite enough." The Sunday Times
"Penelope Keith sweeps on to the stage, shimmering in purple and gold brocade, a feather aflutter in her hat, Lady Bracknell to the manner born. And so she proceeds, effortlessly, in the imperious mode. She listens with dignified disapproval as Ernest, her daughters suitor, details his humble handbag origins... It's a strikingly assured performance in Peter Gills fresh, spirited and handsome production of Oscar Wildes The Importance Of Being Earnest - William Dudley has created a modishly tiled drawing room, a terrace spilling with roses and a grand library appropriately painted with dramatic hunting scenes." The Mail On Sunday
"After her part in the disastrous attempt to revive To the Manor Born over Christmas, one hoped against hope that Penelope Keith would be able to redeem herself as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. There are precious few great roles available on the English stage for actresses of Miss Keith's age, but this formidable old dragon is undoubtedly one of them. Alas, so far from making the most of this gift, Miss Keith leaves it all but unwrapped... Peter Gill's production of Wilde's masterpiece is otherwise a great joy to behold, with some beautiful sets by William Dudley, immaculate costumes by Joan Hughes... made this one of the most staggeringly good-looking productions I have seen in years" The Sunday Telegraph
The Importance Of Being Earnest in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 22 January 2008, opened on 29 January 2008 and closed on 26 April 2008.
London Revival (Open Air Theatre Regent's Park) 2009 with Susan Wooldridge
Previewed 3 July 2009, Opened 8 July 2009, Closed 25 July 2009 at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park
The cast featured Ryan Kiggell as 'John Worthing', Dominic Tighe as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Susan Wooldridge as 'Lady Bracknell', Jo Herbert as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Lucy Briggs Owen as 'Cecily Cardew', Julie Legrand as 'Miss Prism', Richard O'Callaghan as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', Christopher Beeny as 'Lane' and Jim Hooper as 'Merriman'. Directed by Irina Brown with movement by Sue Lefton, designs by Kevin Knight, lighting by Tim Mascall, music by Matthew Scott and sound by Fergus O'Hare.
19th London West End Revival 2012 with Janet Jefferies
Opened 31 January 2012, Closed 11 February 2012 at the Haymarket Theatre
The cast featured Simon Grujich as 'John Worthing', James McNicholas as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Janet Jefferies as 'Lady Bracknell', Stephanie Lane as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Harriet Ballard as 'Cecily Cardew', Rachel Nussbaum as 'Miss Prism', Morgan Thomas as 'Dr Chasuble' and Owen Roberts as 'Lane / Merriman'. Directed by Henry Filloux-Bennett with designs by Katherine Heath, lighting by Eoin Furbank and sound by Dan Jeffries.
Presented by the Old Red Lion Theatre for a limited two week West End run. Following an acclaimed and extended run at the Old Red Lion Theatre in North London from 6 December 2011 to 28 January 2012, this production transferred for a limited season. Directed by the Artisitc Director of the Old Red Lion Theatre, Henry Filloux-Bennett, this production marked the first ever West End transfer for an Old Red Lion Theatre production.
20th London West End Revival 2014 with Sian Phillips
Previewed 27 June 2014, Opened 17 July 2014, Closed 20 September 2014 at the Harold Pinter Theatre
The cast featured 'The Bunbury Company of Players':
Martin Jarvis as 'Anthony Scottney' playing 'John Worthing'
Nigel Havers as 'Richard Oldfield' playing 'Algernon Moncrieff'
Sian Phillips as 'Lavinia Spelman' playing 'Lady Bracknell'
Cherie Lunghi as 'Maria Clifford' playing 'Gwendolen Fairfax'
Christine Kavanagh as 'Ellen O'Brien' playing 'Cecily Cardew'
Rosalind Ayres as 'Wendy Hydon' playing 'Miss Prism'
Niall Buggy as 'Fergus O'Brien' playing 'Rev. Canon Chasuble'
Patrick Godfrey as 'George Spelman' playing 'Lane / Merriman'
Adaptation and additional material by Simon Brett. Directed by Lucy Bailey with designs by William Dudley, lighting by Oliver Fenwick and music and sound by Tom Mills.
When this production opened Paul Taylor in the Independent highlighted that in "Lucy Bailey's charming production of Wilde's greatest comedy... it's a joy to hear Wilde's dialogue delivered with such poised musicality and mischief by seasoned performers of the calibre of Christine Kavanagh and Cherie Lunghi and Martin Jarvis and Nigel Havers." Dominic Maxwell in the Times praised it as being a "thoroughly likeable, high-concept revival of this well-thumbed play," adding that "Simon Brett's new lines frame Wilde with breezy backstage shenanigans... having made the imaginative leap to accept this strange set-up, I found myself buying into Wilde's densely plotted nonsense with more pleasure than I'd done for years." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail wrote: "Playwright Simon Brett has given Oscar Wilde's classic a delightful new context... Director Lucy Bailey and Mr Brett never push the new take too far, yet it allows us to excuse Wilde's sillier plot levers. For me, the familiar lines were given a fresh sparkle. The Wildean world-weariness had benefited from another layer of knowing and the performances here are uniformly strong." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times thought that "to begin with this is a pretty laboured set-up... once the production gets into its swing, the play takes over and you see the point: gradually the setting, the age of the actors and the extraneous carry-on melt away. The set pieces are enjoyable, but most remarkable is the fact that you begin to root for the characters... That is smart and delightful; it's just a shame that the supporting framework isn't sounder." Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph described it as being a "self-indulgent travesty of a masterpiece" while Neil Norman in the Daily Express said "this is a real luvviefest. Lucy Bailey's production of the most perfect comedy in the English language is performed by veteran actors pretending to be amateurs... Polite, tentative and far too cosy, this ruse to excuse the ageing cast is not a good enough reason for interfering with Oscar who still gets the biggest laughs." Michael Billington in the Guardian commented that "director Lucy Bailey has supplied the play with a framework in which we see the amateur Bunbury company staging a dress rehearsal in a country house, so what we get is a hapless mixture of Noises Off and Oscar Wilde."
"Lucy Bailey has created a would be playful conceit: the am-dram Bunbury Company of Players have delighted locals for decades with a summer production of Wilde's scintillating comedy of bad manners, and here they go again, in spite of their grey hair and elasticated waistbands. Had Simon Brett, who has written the new bits, injected some real tension between the 'real' people and their onstage characters, Noises Off-style, he might have added some merriment, even a touch of farce. He hasn't... Happily, but for a final limp wrap-up, the framing device is abandoned after the interval and the cast are free to rally, dropshot, lob and volley the play's unequalled aphorisms like camp Wimbledon finalists, and at a ferocious lick, too... Age has withered neither Wilde nor this Wildely talented cast, and the production would have been much more fun played straight." The Mail on Sunday
"Lucy Bailey and the writer Simon Brett have come up with a framing device for the production in which an am-dram group has performed Oscar Wilde's play as part of its summer season for donkey's years, and doesn't intend to stop now... The added material feels like an elaborate excuse for miscasting star names. And, because we're watching an ostensible rehearsal of the play, interruptions keep tampering with the blissful comic timing... Bailey's production never becomes the delirium of epigrams one hopes for from Wilde. A comedy that should feel like a brisk breeze is too often heavy weather." The Sunday Times
"Once the 'dress rehearsal' gets underway - and finally we get to hear what Wilde himself actually wrote - it sparkles. Nigel Havers and Martin Jarvis - reprising the romantic leads that they first played in Peter Hall's production of the play at the National in 1982 - are delightful. Inevitably, all allusions to age are suddenly very funny. Sian Phillips is, meanwhile, pure arsenic in old lace as Lady Bracknell and she delivers the play's most celebrated line - 'a handbag!' - with tremendous relish... I don't really see that there has to be an explanation as to why the actors playing the roles are almost all too old for them. If colour- blind casting is now the norm - when actors are cast in roles irrespective of race - then I don't see why age blind casting is so hard to accept." The Sunday Telegraph
"The results are mixed. There are some moments of farce with some missing cucumber sandwiches, Sian Phillips gets a chance to rehearse the dreaded "handbag" line, and Nigel Havers and Martin Jarvis have lots of fun playing younger characters, often more fun than it is to watch them. Wilde called his play a 'trivial comedy for serious people', but ultimately the am-dram feeling permeates the production and a lot of the pathos of the mistaken identity theme is lost." The Sunday Mirror
The Importance Of Being Earnest in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 27 June 2014, opened on 17 July 2014 and closed on 20 September 2014.
21st London West End Revival 2015 with David Suchet
Previewed 24 June 2015, Opened 1 July 2015, Closed 7 November 2015 at the Vaudeville TheatreA major revival of Oscar Wilde's classic comedy The Importance Of Being Earnest in London starring David Suchet as 'Lady Bracknell' and directed by Adrian Noble.
The cast featured Michael Benz as 'John Worthing', Philip Cumbus as 'Algernon Moncrieff', David Suchet as 'Lady Bracknell', Emily Barber as 'Gwendolen Fairfax', Imogen Doel as 'Cecily Cardew', Michele Dotrice as 'Miss Prism', Richard O'Callaghan as 'Rev. Canon Chasuble', David Killick as 'Lane' and Brendan Hooper as 'Merriman'. Directed by Adrian Noble with designs by Peter McKintosh, lighting by Howard Harrison, music by Larry Blank and sound by Gareth Owen.
David Suchet is probably best known for his acclaimed television portrayal of Agatha Christie's detective Hercule Poirot. His recent West End theatre credits includes Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (Apollo Theatre 2012), Arthur Miller's All My Sons (Apollo Theatre 2010), Joe Sutton's Complicit (Old Vic Theatre 2009), Roger Crane's The Last Confession (Haymarket Theatre 2007) and Terence Rattigan's Man and Boy (Duchess Theatre 2005).
When this production opened here at the Vaudeville Theatre in July 2015, Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail highlighted that, "directed by Adrian Noble, this is a quick and often funny Earnest, though occasionally over-strenuous in its gurning and chest-clutching.... Oscar Wilde's masterly hit has seldom been as playfully contorted." Paul Taylor in the Independent hailed it as being a "highly entertaining production." Neil Norman in Daily Express thought that it was a "lively if slightly overheated production." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph commented that "while David Suchet acquits himself admirably in a part habitually played by leading ladies of high renown, the bulk of the evening, directed by former RSC chief Adrian Noble, is as much a trial as poor Oscar's courtroom ordeals." Dominic Maxwell in the Times wrote that "it's not often we see David Suchet playing for laughs, but he seizes the opportunity with both lacy-gloved hands here to play a marvellously monstrous Lady Bracknell in this thoroughly frisky revival... He pulls off his cross-dressing a treat, but really, happily, it's an ensemble triumph. Big fun." Michael Billington in the Guardian described how David Suchet "gives a majestically funny performance in an Adrian Noble production that plays up Wilde's farcical exuberance at the expense of his running commentary on Victorian life.," concluding that "this is a thoroughly enjoyable production and, at its centre, lies a superb performance by Suchet." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard said that "Adrian Noble's production contains some smart touches, not least the delineation between Cecily and Gwendolen, who make a snappy double act of innocence and experience, country and city. I suspect that I personally never need see this play again. But Suchet fans won't be disappointed." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times thought that "there's plenty to like in this sunny production, but it strains rather too much for breeziness."
"It's not just David Suchet, cross-dressing as Lady Bracknell, who is beautifully upholstered. Peter McKintosh's sets are fit for an arriviste oligarch: pre-Raphaelite murals, a marble-pillared library in the William Morris style and rose-bowered courtyards framing rolling countryside. Impressive, but is it set changes or potential bar revenue that necessitate a second interval? Adrian Noble's otherwise sprightly production is winningly acted... Suchet's Lady B is a delightful curiosity... Mining every inflection, his eyebrows plucked to perpetual outrage and his war paint businesslike, he is nonetheless a female impostor, not an impersonator: little effort is made to raise his register." The Sunday Times
"David Suchet is a splendid actor: who should be giving us his Master Builder or Prospero. Instead he has decided to don a chignon as Wilde's doughty dowager in a performance that is so pantomime dame, so staccato and lacking in nuance, one wishes he had gone down the Ian McKellen route and played Widow Twankey. That the play survives so well is due to the excellence of the remaining cast and Adrian Noble`s direction. At times he applies it too lavishly: the famous tea-party scene between Gwendolen and Cecily steers dangerously close to French and Saunders. Overall, however; the production is full of rich and unexpected delights, from Algernon's prairie oyster hangover cure to Cecily's climactic aversion to his name." The Sunday Express
"The Importance of Being Earnest was described by its author Oscar Wilde as 'a trivial comedy for serious people', and the gender-bending in this production in theory should add to the riot of paradoxes and false personas that make this his funniest play. But for the most part, this show cranks up the laughter at the expense of anything genuinely tender or delicate, which is a shame in some ways, as the evening feels like a jolly Wodehouse farce rather than the subtle satire it is. At his worst, Suchet lapses into Mrs Slocombe-like effrontery. But mostly he's his own woman, the rasping voice curdled with disdain as Lady B's gun-turrets swivel in search of a fresh target. He's too brilliant an actor to miss his opportunities." The Mail on Sunday
The Importance Of Being Earnest in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 24 June 2015, opened on 1 July 2015 and closed on 7 November 2015.
22nd London West End Revival 2018 with Sophie Thompson
Previewed 20 July 2018, Opened 2 August 2018, Closed 20 October 2018 at the Vaudeville Theatre
This revival is presented as part of Dominic Dromgoole's Classic Spring Theatre Company's Oscar Wilde Season: A Woman of No Importance from October to December 2017; Lady Windermere's Fan from January to April 2018; Wilde Creatures children's show, December 2017; An Ideal Husband spring/summer 2018; and The Importance Of Being Earnest spring/summer 2018.
The cast features Jacob Fortune-Lloyd as 'John Worthing (Jack)', Fehinti Balogun as 'Algernon Moncrieff', Sophie Thompson as 'Lady Bracknell', Pippa Nixon as 'Gwendolyn Fairfax', Fiona Button as 'Cecily Cardew', Stella Gonet as 'Miss Prism' and Jeremy Swift as 'Reverend Chasuble', with Geoffrey Freshwater as 'Lane', Matt Crosby as 'Merriman' and Tim Gibson as 'Moulton'. Directed by Michael Fentiman with designs by Madeleine Girling, costumes by Gabriella Slade, lighting by Jack Knowles and sound by George Dennis.
When this production opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in August 2018, Ann Treneman in the Times highlighted that "Sophie Thompson triumphs as Lady Bracknell, managing to be both intimidating and hilarious," adding that "the original subtitle for Earnest was 'a trivial comedy for serious people'. This production succeeds in living up to that description." Ben Lawrence in the Daily Telegraph said that "it's sad to report that Michael Fentiman's production is as subtle as concrete... the fact that many of the cast bellow their lines as if their lives depended on it suppresses the sparkle of Wilde's writing... a raucous, muddle-headed production." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard explained that, "with every comic opportunity eagerly milked, there's a risk of this colourful production turning into pantomime... but even if this isn't the most subtle take on the play, the oneliners retain their sparkle." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper wrote that "Michael Fentiman's production takes the disinhibition a stage further in being explicit about the play's bisexual subtext from the outset... Seriously, does anybody need The Importance 'decoding' in this heavy-handed, pseudo-radical way? The cast perform the play with a rampant energy, but there's barely a shred of subtlety in all the cartoonish excess." Neil Norman in the Daily Express comment how, as Lady Bracknell, "Sophie Thompson's vowel-gargling, register-defying performance is exceptionally funny as she swoops from soprano to tenor across a line... Director Michael Fentiman dials up the volume and the pace with some loss of subtlety but the laughs still derive from Wilde which can only be a good thing."
Sophie Thompson's West End theatre credits include the role of 'Miss Adelaide' in Gordon Greenberg's revival of the Frank Loesser musical Guys and Dolls at the Savoy Theatre in 2016; the double-role of 'Bev' and 'Kathy' in Dominic Cooke's production of Bruce Norris' play Clybourne Park at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2011; the role of 'Tess' in Roger Michell's production of Joanna Murray-Smith's play The Female of the Species at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2008; and the role of 'Amy' in Sam Mendes' revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical Company at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) in 1996.
Jacob Fortune-Lloyd's London theatre credits include the role of 'Rudolf Bing' in Jeremy Herrin's production of David Hare's play The Moderate Soprano at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2018; and the role of 'Macduff' in Iqbal Khan's revival of Shakespeare's Macbeth at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 2016. Fehinti Balogun's West End credits include the ensemble of Deborah Warner's revival of Shakespeare's King Lear, with Glenda Jackson in the title role, at the Old Vic Theatre in 2016.
The Importance Of Being Earnest in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 20 July 2018, opened on 2 August 2018 and closed on 20 October 2018