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The Importance of Being Earnest - Nigel Havers and Siân Phillips star

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THIS summer, Lucy Bailey will direct a revival of Oscar Wilde’s much loved and brilliantly witty masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest. With a cast including Nigel Havers and Siân Phillips, it runs at the Harold Pinter Theatre from June 27 to September 20, 2014.

One of the most popular plays ever written and subtitled A trivial comedy for serious people, The Importance of Being Earnest has been described as bursting with hilarious lines and extraordinary twists of fate, and sparkling with the witty dialogue of its genteel protagonists.

Prim-and-proper Jack Worthington is in love with the equally prim-and-proper Gwendolyn Fairfax. His friend, Algernon 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 as fresh and funny as when it was first performed in 1895.

Sian Phillips’ more recent theatre credits include Cabaret (Savoy Theatre), Lovesong, Calendar Girls and Juliet and Her Romeo. As well as her BAFTA-winning role in I, Claudius, she has appeared on screen in Goodbye Mr Chips, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Dune.

Nigel Havers is well known on screen for his roles in Downton Abbey, Coronation Street (as Lewis Archer), Brothers and Sisters, Born and Bred, The Charmer, Don’t Wait Up and Dangerfield (TV); The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Chariots of Fire and The Empire of the Sun (film). His theatre credits include Basket Case, Rebecca, See U Next Tuesday and Art.

They are joined in the cast of The Importance of Being Earnest by Rosalind Ayres (Outnumbered, New Tricks, God and Monsters), Niall Buggy (Uncle Vanya, Dead Funny, Aristocrats), Martin Jarvis (Endeavour, Law & Order: UK, Titanic), Christine Kavanagh (Basket Case, Vera, Manchild) and Cherie Lunghi (Passion Play, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, The Manageress).

Lucy Bailey’s recent productions include Uncle Vanya (Print Room), The Winter’s Tale (RSC) and Fortune’s Fool (Old Vic).

Designed by William Dudley (Fortunes Fool, The Beggar’s Opera, Titus Andronicus), The Importance of Being Earnest has a ‘company writer’ attached, crime specialist Simon Brett, best known for his Charles Paris series about a middle-aged actor/amateur detective.

Following its run at the Harold Pinter Theatre, The Importance of Being Earnest will tour to Theatre Royal, Bath (September 22 – 27), Theatre Royal Brighton (September 29 to October 4), Aylesbury Waterside (October 6 – 11), Richmond Theatre (October 13 – 18) and Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham (October 20 – 25).

Also at the Harold Pinter Theatre: Trevor Nunn’s Theatre Royal Bath revival of Noel Coward’s classic comedy Relative Values, starring Patricia Hodge, Caroline Quentin and Rory Bremner.