The Importance Of Being Earnest


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REVIEW: The Importance Of Being Earnest, Theatre Royal, Winchester.

Okay, so I’ve seen more than a few productions of ‘Earnest’ over the years – and I have to say this is easily the best one. Easily.

Absolutely everything is right about this… the wonderful period costumes, the delivery, casting, lighting, amazing set… and the Theatre itself. The audience played its part too in helping create an immensely joyful atmosphere.


The play was written by Oscar Wilde in 1894 and opened in London on Valentine’s Day 1895 – and as director Alastair Whatley reminds us, his fall from grace came just two months later. Two years’ imprisonment with hard labour, lest we forget, and then exile to Paris.


The play stars Gwen Taylor (Coronation Street, Duty Free & Barbara) as Lady Bracknell and Susan Penhaligon (A Fine Romance, Emmerdale) as Miss Prism.

But they would be the first to acknowledge that everyone in the nine-strong cast played their part. There’s a lot of dialogue that has to be right, and the timing was spot on, so particular praise here also has to go to Simon Shackleton (Lane/Merriman) and Peter Sandys-Clarke (Jack Worthing) who both have a lot to get through!


I particularly enjoyed the set, which at times was designed to make you feel as if you were in a huge library at The Manor, Jack Worthing’s country house in Hertfordshire. It was simply beautiful. They have really gone to town on this, and it shows.

Just as an aside – and indeed a sign of the times – this is probably one of the only times when smoking IS allowed in the auditorium. Well, on stage at least. I must confess that it’s been ages since I experienced that kind of smell wafting around the room… and I have no complaints whatsoever!

Kevin Gover

If you can’t get to see any of the performances in Winchester, please note that it’s also being staged at Salisbury Playhouse 20-24 March.