Click the image on the
right for the press release, including historical information
about the four act version of the play.
Mr Gribsby, the solicitor, collecting a debt... in a case of mistaken
THIS is not the version of Oscar Wilde’s classic usually
performed but a fuller four-act version.
For its premier in 1895 actor-manager George Alexander wanted
a shorter, tighter play and got Wilde to cut a whole act which
Bryan Hands and Kenneth Michael’s production here restores.
“A trivial comedy for serious people” is what its
author called it and it is a very funny one, at the expense of
the brainless upper classes.
Its witty lines are so good you laugh afresh no matter how many
times you have heard them. Marcus McSorley and Oliver Fabian
give a youthful charm to the young aristos John and Algy – and
Louise Houghton and Gemma Harvey match them with Gwendolen and
Cecily, both determined to marry the imaginary Ernest.
To its plot concerning marriage broking, a lost baby, a lost
handbag, a fantasy diary and an imaginary invalid, this version
adds a scene in which the law arrives to arrest John for non-payment
of the massive restaurant bill he has run up at the Savoy under
than name of Ernest.
It emphasises the irresponsibility of a character who can otherwise
seem quite upright and underlines Wilde’s political critique.
The play is attractively mounted in a clever folding set and
has a delightful double in William Argent’s two butlers,
with different moustaches.
Aline Waites, Hampstead & Highgate
"The Importance" - again? The most famous comedy in
the English language seems to pop up every couple of months.
However it is presented, that incredible dialogue is still awe-inspiring.
The writing and the wit is, of course, unsurpassable, but the
main charm is its utter heartlessness. There is no pretence -
no altruism, every character is cheerfully selfish and that is
what makes it so very special and so very funny.
No one is going to make it to the altar without approval from
Gwendolen’s mother and Algy’s aunt Lady Bracknell,
a role for more than half a century in the shadow of Edith Evans’ grandiose
performance. Frances Cuka is no imitation Evans. She finds her
own reality in the part and has picked up on the fact that Bracknell
was not wealthy when she married; she makes her very human, still
careful to behave correctly for the position marriage brought her.
In this production, there is no attempt to reproduce any of the other versions.
Oliver Fabian and Marcus McSorley who play Algy and Jack, the two cornerstones
of the piece, are fresh and natural and their friendship seems totally real.
Frances Cuka can now join the line of respected actors who have
played Lady Bracknell - and it is a triumph. She has the lightest
of touches and every word she says seems to spring from the delightfully
cold heart and acid tongue of her character. She even manages
to surprise with her rendering of the line impersonated since
it was uttered by Dame Edith Evans. One waits, in anticipation, for "A handbag?" It
is worth waiting for!