A Woman of No Importance

Vaudeville Theatre
The Strand, London

Public Previews: 6 October 2017
Opens: 16 October 2017
Closes: 30 December 2017

Buy tickets:

Buy tickets online

Nearest Tube: Charing Cross / Covent Garden

Location street map

Theatre seating plan

Show times
Monday at 7.30pm
Tuesday at 7.30pm
Wednesday at 2.30pm
Thursday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday no show
Note: Sat 7 Oct at 7.30pm only
Note: Mon 16 Oct at 7.00pm only

Runs ? hours and ? minutes

Seat prices
? to ?
(plus booking fees if applicable)

A major revival of Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance in London starring Eve Best and Anne Reid and directed by Dominic Dromgoole

'A play of modern life' by Oscar Wilde. Set amidst the grandeur of an English country home, Oscar Wilde's deliciously witty satire centres around the revelation of Mrs Arbuthnot's long-concealed secret and her struggle to survive in a society that values image above integrity - a brilliantly sharp comedy of the classes.

Featuring such classic witticisms as: "a well tied tie is the first serious step in life"; "the man that can dominate a London dinner table can dominate the world"; fox-hunting is "the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable"; "the soul is born old and grows young, that is the comedy of life"; "I adore simple pleasures, they are the last refuge of the complex"; and "men marry because they are tired, women because they are curious: both are disappointed."

The cast features Eve Best as 'Mrs Arbuthnot' and Anne Reid as 'Lady Hunstanton' with Eleanor Bron as 'Lady Caroline Pontefract' and William Gaunt as 'Venerable Archdeacon Daubeny'. Directed by Dominic Dromgoole - the former Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London.

This revival is presented as the first play in 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.

A Woman of No Importance in London at the Vaudeville Theatre public previews from 6 October 2017, opens on 16 October 2017 and closes on 30 December 2017


Original London West End Production 1893 at Haymarket Theatre

1st London West End Revival 1907 at His Majesty's Theatre

London West End Revival (two performances only) 1915 at the Kingsway Theatre

London Revival 1930 at the Regent Theatre

2nd London West End Revival 1953 at the Savoy Theatre

3rd London West End Revival 1967 at the Vaudeville Theatre

4th London West End Revival 1991 at the Barbican and Haymarket Theatres

5th London West End Revival 2003 at the Haymarket Theatre



Original London West End Production 1893 at Haymarket Theatre

Opened 19 April 1893, Closed 16 August 1893 at the Haymarket Theatre

The original cast featured Herbert Beerbohm Tree as 'Lord Illingworth', Mrs Bernard Beere as 'Mrs Arbuthnot', Fred Terry as 'Gerald Arbuthnot', Rose Leclercq as 'Lady Hunstanton', Mrs H B Tree as 'Mrs Allonby', Julia Neilson as 'Miss Hester Worsley', R G Le Thiere as 'Lady Caroline Pontefract', E Holman Clark as 'Sir John Pontefract', Blanche Horlock as 'Lady Stutfield', Charles Allan as 'Mr Kelvil MP', Henry Kemble as 'The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny' and Mr Lawford as 'Lord Alfred Rufford'. Directed by Herbert Beerbohm Tree.


1st London West End Revival 1907 at His Majesty's Theatre

Opened 22 May 1907, Closed 4 July 1907 at His Majesty's Theatre (now Her Majesty's Theatre)

The original cast featured Herbert Beerbohm Tree as 'Lord Illingworth', Marion Terry as 'Mrs Arbuthnot', Charles Quartermaine as 'Gerald Arbuthnot', Mrs Charles Calvert as 'Lady Hunstanton', Ellis Jeffreys as 'Mrs Allonby', Viola Tree as 'Miss Hester Worsley', Kate Bishop as 'Lady Caroline Pontefract', J Fisher White as 'Sir John Pontefract', Kate Cutler as 'Lady Stutfield', Charles Allan as 'Mr Kelvil MP', Edmund Maurice as 'The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny' and Langhorne Burton as 'Lord Alfred Rufford'. Directed by Herbert Beerbohm Tree.


London West End Revival (two performances only) 1915 at the Kingsway Theatre

Opened 13 May 1915, Closed 14 May 1915 at the Kingsway Theatre

The cast featured Lawrence Hanray as 'Lord Illingworth', Madge McIntosh as 'Mrs Arbuthnot', Percy Marmont as 'Gerald Arbuthnot', Edith Barwell as 'Lady Hunstanton', Estelle Winwood as 'Mrs Allonby', Edith Smith as 'Miss Hester Worsley', Nina Henderson as 'Lady Caroline Pontefract', William Armstrong as 'Sir John Pontefract', Kathleen Johnston as 'Lady Stutfield', Harvey Adams as 'Mr Kelvil MP', William Dexter as 'The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny' and Frederick Cooper as 'Lord Alfred Rufford'. Directed by Madge McIntosh.

Two performances only - presented as part of a short season of plays by the Liverpool Repertory Theatre Company and produced by the Liverpool Commonwealth Company.


London Revival 1930 at the Regent Theatre

Opened 11 October 1930, Closed 17 October 1930 at the Regent Theatre (now demolished)

The cast featured Tod Slaughter as 'Lord Illingworth', Winifred Griffiths as 'Mrs Arbuthnot', Lawrence Rushworth as 'Gerald Arbuthnot', Dorothy Dewhurst as 'Lady Hunstanton', Christina Horniman as 'Mrs Allonby', Mary Mousley as 'Miss Hester Worsley', Evelyn Gardiner as 'Lady Caroline Pontefract', Horace Custins as 'Sir John Pontefract', Pearl Colquhoun as 'Lady Stutfield', William Dewhurst as 'Mr Kelvil MP' and Ellis J Preston as 'The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny'. Directed by Martin Sabine.

Presented by the London Repertory Company for 12 performances only. The Regent Theatre was located in the Euston Road, opposite St Pancras Railway Station.


2nd London West End Revival 1953 at the Savoy Theatre

Opened 12 February 1953, Closed 18 July 1953 at the Savoy Theatre

The original cast featured Clive Brook as 'Lord Illingworth', Miss Nora Swinburne as 'Mrs Arbuthnot', Peter Barkworth as 'Gerald Arbuthnot', Athene Seyler as 'Lady Hunstanton', Isabel Jeans as 'Mrs Allonby', Frances Hyland as 'Miss Hester Worsley', Jean Cadell as 'Lady Caroline Pontefract', William Mervyn as 'Sir John Pontefract', Joan Benham as 'Lady Stutfield', Philip Burton as 'Mr Kelvil MP', Aubrey Mather as 'The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny' and Charles Perry as 'Lord Alfred Rufford'. Directed by Michael Benthall with designs by Mr Loudon Sainthill.


3rd London West End Revival 1967 at the Vaudeville Theatre

Opened 28 November 1967, Closed 13 January 1968 at the Vaudeville Theatre

The original cast featured Tony Britton as 'Lord Illingworth', Phyllis Calvert as 'Mrs Arbuthnot', Michael Pennington as 'Gerald Arbuthnot', Agnes Lauchlan as 'Lady Hunstanton', Pauline James as 'Mrs Allonby', Portland Mason as 'Miss Hester Worsley', Billie Hill as 'Lady Caroline Pontefract', George Ddesmond as 'Sir John Pontefract', Diane Hart as 'Lady Stutfield', James Hayter as 'The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny', Robert Ddean as 'Mr Kelvil MP' and Dixon Adams as 'Lord Alfred Rufford'. Directed by Malcolm Farquhar with sets by Jessica Gwynne and costumes by William J Winn.


4th London West End Revival 1991 at the Barbican Theatre and Haymarket Theatre

Previewed Thursday 26 September 1991, Opened Wednesday 2 October 1991, Closed 30 November 1991 (in repertory) at the Barbican Theatre
Transferred 24 June 1992, Opened 13 July 1992, Closed 7 November 1992 at the Haymarket Theatre

The original Barbican Theatre cast John Carlisle as 'Lord Illingworth', Carol Royle as 'Mrs Arbuthnot', Andrew Havill as 'Gerald Arbuthnot', Barbara Leigh-Hunt as 'Lady Hunstanton', Nichola McAuliffe as 'Mrs Allonby', Julie Saunders as 'Miss Hester Worsley', Cherry Morris as 'Lady Caroline Pontefract', Leonard Kavanagh as 'Sir John Pontefract', Mary Chater as 'Lady Stutfield', David Killick as 'M Kelvil MP', John Bott as 'The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny' and Marston Bloom as 'Lord Alfred Rufford'.

The original West End cast at the Haymarket Theatre featured John Carlisle as 'Lord Illingworth', Carol Royle as 'Mrs Arbuthnot', Andrew Havill as 'Gerald Arbuthnot', Barbara Leigh-Hunt as 'Lady Hunstanton', Jennifer Hilary as 'Mrs Allonby', Jaye Griffiths as 'Miss Hester Worsley', Faith Brook as 'Lady Caroline Pontefract', Leonard Kavanagh as 'Sir John Pontefract', Mary Chater as 'Lady Stutfield', Patrick Hannaway as 'Mr Kelvil MP', John Gill as 'The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny' and Simon Day as 'Lord Alfred Rufford'. During the run Gwen Watford took over as 'Lady Hunstanton', James Tucker took over as 'Lord Alfred Rufford', Paulette Ivory took over as 'Miss Hester Worsley' and Nada Sharp took over as 'Lady Stutfield'.

Directed and designed by Philip Prowse with lighting by Gerry Jenkinson.

"Philip Prowse's production, like many by him, looks gorgeous and moves with a sedate tread. He follows his usual practice of designing the sets himself, this time backing the stage with a giant pastiche of a Claude landscape and filling it with gilded urns, walls and even leaves. When the action shifts indoors, a vast, psychedelic ottoman appears, emphasising a pretty obvious point. This is a rich, artificial world full of spoiled, glazed people: an amiable Barbara Leigh-Hunt representing its more acceptable face... They saunter, emit stilted yelps, and sometimes manage to be funny. The wit is exhaustive, but also increasingly exhausted and exhausting... Still, Carol Royle manages to bring dignity to Illingworth's ex-mistress, and John Carlisle, sporting a supercilious smirk, is every inch the blase roue and, as such, historically suggestive." The Times

"In matters of grave importance, said Wilde's Gwendolen, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing. In A Woman Of No Importance too, it would seem, since Philip Prowse's new production at the Barbican is swathed in style. But not all Mr Prowse's art can disguise the fact that Wilde shamelessly exploits the double-standards he seeks to expose. Wilde puts his chief point into the mouth of an American puritan: that English society has one law for men and another for women. Proof positive comes when the rakish Lord Illingworth is confronted at Lady Hunstanton's rural rout by Mrs Arbuthnot, the woman he ruined 20 years ago... Philip Prowse's production, handsomely set on manicured lawns and in picture-framed drawing-rooms, does everything possible to conceal the joins... John Carlisle's Lord Illingworth is not only an immensely subtle portrait of a sleekly dangerous lounge-lizard, he also times his laughs precisely to the flick of his lighter. Nichola McAuliffe's excellent Mrs Allonby." The Guardian

"Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance is a mixture of comedy, melodrama and - in the final act - a heavy dose of Ibsen. The central male character, Lord Illingworth, is a thoroughly unpleasant man who drips aphorisms, most of which are no longer funny and few of which can have seemed all that brilliant even when the play was written in the early 1890s. The theme, such as it is, might charitably be described as early feminist, in that there is a plea that women should be better treated, though even that element could simply be seen as part of the melodrama. In short, the piece is a bit of a mess. It takes a troupe of great talent to put it together as a plausible production one hundred years later, yet that is what the Royal Shakespeare Company has done. The RSC may have taken some liberties. In particular, Philip Prowse's direction concentrates on the women - not just the woman who is wronged, but the women who, as even Lord Illingworth admits, make up society... The Ibsen influence comes in towards the end when Carol Royle as Mrs Arbuthnot, the wronged mother of Illingworth's son, declines all offers of a reconciliation." The Financial Times

A Woman of No Importance in London at the Barbican Theatre previewed from 26 September 1991, opened on 2 October 1991 and closed on 30 November 1991, transferred to the Haymarket Theatre from 24 June 1992 and closed on 7 November 1992


5th London West End Revival 2003 at the Haymarket Theatre

Previewed 10 September 2003, Opened 16 September 2003, Closed 31 January 2004 at the Haymarket Theatre

The original cast featured Rupert Graves as 'Lord Illingworth', Samantha Bond as 'Mrs Arbuthnot', Julian Ovenden as 'Gerald Arbuthnot', Prunella Scales as 'Lady Hunstanton', Joanne Pearce as 'Mrs Allonby', Rachel Stirling as 'Miss Hester Worsley', Caroline Blakiston as 'Lady Caroline Pontefract', Ralph Nossek as 'Sir John Pontefract', Elizabeth Garvie as 'Lady Stutfield', John Normington as 'Mr Kelvil MP', Peter Cellier as 'The Ven. Archdeacon Daubeny', Jasper Jacob as 'Lord Alfred Rufford' with Richard Teverson, Richard Syms and Sharon Scogings. Directed by Adrian Noble with designs by Peter McKintosh, lighting by Rick Fisher and sound by Paul Arditti.

"Until Samantha Bond comes on, the show is a slow motion bore. Whenever she appears, magnificently audible, utterly tragic and playing her heart out as the Wronged Woman with a double capital W, things look up. There's some minor excitement when Gerald learns the truth about his real father and throws a wobbly. But behind the social whirl of a country-house party, this family saga rolls on and on, the plot creaking like floorboards in a haunted vicarage. Aside from Ms Bond's contribution, there's a smashing performance from Rachael Stirling (Diana Rigg's daughter) as the modern-minded American girl with whom the randy lord tries it on. Rupert Graves, going a bit grey about the gills, brilliantly plays super-witty Lord Illingworth like a leering, self-important spiv straight out of Tony Blair's House of Lords... Director Adrian Noble seems as exhausted as the rest of us by the play's epic quantities of witty banter which he orchestrates with nil conviction." The Daily Express

"This is Oscar Wilde's most unsuccessful but most promising play, and Adrian Noble's production seems unsure how to get the balance right... Unusually for Noble, the production lacks pace until, oddly enough, the interminable last act; where, for all the tears and blood and thunder, the feelings begin to sound genuine... Here, the relationship between Illingworth, Mrs Arbuthnot and their son explodes into almost full reality. Until then, even though the play is cast to the hilt, it trundles rather than whips along, with the characters arranged picturesquely, like statuary." The Sunday Times

"Samantha Bond gives a powerful performance as the wronged Mrs Arbuthnot, but even she can't stop the serious part of the action seeming a load of old rope. Rupert Graves as immoral Lord Illingworth and Joanne Pearce as cynical Mrs Allonby deliver their witty lines with aplomb, but all too often the wit itself seems mechanical or stale. Fortunately, Wilde had another vein of comedy, which was closer to farce, and which provides much the most amusing moments of the evening... There are handsome dresses, and polished acting virtually throughout. Rachael Sterling looks very fetching as a young American heiress. The period flavour has its charm. But you don't come away feeling you want to see another revival of the play in a hurry." The Sunday Telegraph

"Oscar Wilde's A Woman Of No Importance is a play of little significance. To begin with, it's all delicious witticisms and clinking teacups. Then it plunges into melodrama, stabbing cackhandedly at the hypocrisy of Victorian society in which there is one law for immoral men and another for the poor women left, literally, holding the baby... The performances in Adrian Noble's flabby revival are somewhat uneven. Rupert Graves is a splendid cad, glitteringly heartless, while Caroline Blakiston and Joanne Pearce are truly Wilde women, ensuring every sentence stings like a nettle. Poor old Prunella Scales is too absentminded as Lady Hunstanton, and Samantha Bond, who blazes bitterly in black velvet, is marvellous as Mrs Arbuthnot, but her part belongs in a different play - Ibsen perhaps." The Mail on Sunday

A Woman of No Importance in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 10 September 2003, opened on 16 September 2003 and closed on 31 January 2004.