Cucumber sandwiches & a handbag. OVO Theatre jazzes up Wilde’s The Importance at Roman Theatre of Verulamium

OVO Theatre presents a bold, imaginative and unexpected jazz remix of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance Of Being Earnest within the historic grounds of The Roman Theatre in St Albans next month.

This ‘Trivial Comedy for Serious People,’ directed by Adam Nichols and Matt Strachan, plays out in an elegant world of fashionable society that’s heady with a strong whiff of scandal, and set to a very cool jazz soundtrack.

Photos Tim Morozzo

The cast includes OVO regulars Anna Franklin as Lady Bracknell, Guido Garcia Lueches as Merriman, Emilia Harrild as Gwendolen Fairfax and Emma Wright as Miss Laetitia Prism.

Casting is completed with Charlie Clee is Algernon Montcrieff, Eloise Westwood as Cecily Cardew and Lyle Fulton plays Jack Worthing.

Jack loves Gwendolen, Algernon loves Cecily, but both of them are engaged to the roguish Ernest – much to the disapproval of the formidable Lady Bracknell.

The only problem is that Ernest doesn’t actually exist and – when his true identity is revealed – being “earnest” takes on a whole new meaning…

Mistaken identity and romance collide with cucumber sandwiches and – of course – a notorious handbag.

Says co-director Adam Nichols: “The Importance of Being Earnest is, quite simply, one of the funniest plays ever written in the English language and I think – over a century later – it completely retains its ability to entertain and amuse.

“Matt Strachan and I are really excited about working together on this clever play which we think Roman Theatre audiences are going to love.

“Although it was written over a 100 years ago, its witty dialogue and high farce are as entertaining today as they were yesterday.

“The institution of marriage comes in for a satirical beating while the themes of love and romance, snobbery and one-upmanship are clever and hilarious; Wilde’s brilliant words coupled with his sharply observed view of social mores feel very contemporary.   

“Poignantly, at the time Earnest was published, Wilde was involved in a very public scandal and a court case which effectively finished his career.  I hope, with our fantastic cast and choice of music, costume and setting, we’ll do the great man justice.”

OVO is resident at the Roman Theatre for three months – the longest stint so far –  with a lively programme of entertainment that offers something for regular fans and first time visitors.

Adam Nichols, artistic director of OVO, said: “We’re staging three big shows at The Roman Theatre this summer: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Importance of Being Earnest and Little Women.  

“We’re also delighted to be welcoming back Charles Court Opera for another rip-roaring evening of Gilbert & Sullivan, and The Pantaloons whose re-telling of the classics are always audience favourites.  

“We’ll have children’s shows including an adaptation of the classic picture-book and favourite bedtime story The Kiss That Missed and Twisted Tales, a new play by Terry Deary, author of Horrible Histories.  And there’s live music including the legendary jazz saxophonist, Alan Barnes and his Octet.”

OVO’s Roman Theatre Open Air Festival at The Roman Theatre of Verulamium, Bluehouse Hill, St Albans continues until August 11. Click HERE for the full summer programme.


LITTLE WOMEN  August 3 – 14.

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