The Importance of seeing Oscar Wilde classic 'Earnest' at Roman Theatre in St Albans

Charlie Clee as Algernon Moncrieff and Eloise Westwood as Cecily Cardew star in The Importance of Being Earnest

Charlie Clee as Algernon and Eloise Westwood as Cecily Cardew star in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans. - Credit: Tim Morozzo

An Oscar Wilde classic opens at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans next week.

Following their 1970s disco-inspired version of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, OVO presents a bold, imaginative and unexpected jazz remix of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest from July 2 to July 17.

Lyle Fulton as Jack Worthing and Emilia Harrild as Gwendolen Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Roman Theatre

Lyle Fulton as Jack Worthing and Emilia Harrild as Gwendolen Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans. - Credit: Tim Morozzo

The playwright subtitled the play ‘A Trivial Comedy for Serious People’ when it was published in 1895.

Performed within the historic grounds of the Roman Theatre, directors Adam Nichols and Matt Strachan, who co-directed the recent run of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, have created an elegant world of fashionable society together with a strong whiff of scandal set to a very cool jazz soundtrack.

Audience members will recognise a number of the performers with the cast including OVO regulars Anna Franklin as Lady Bracknell, Guido Garcia Lueches as Merriman, Emilia Harrild as Gwendolen Fairfax, and Emma Wright as Miss Laetitia Prism.

Anna Franklin as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest at Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans.

Anna Franklin as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans. - Credit: Tim Morozzo

In Earnest, 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.

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Co-director Adam Nichols said: "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.  

"Its witty dialogue and high farce are as entertaining today as they were then.  

"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 – its longest stint so far – with a lively programme of entertainment that offers something for regular fans and first time visitors.  

The company has also installed new facilities such as a full bar that affords hilltop views of the 2,000-year old arena and beautiful Ver Valley, new toilet facilities, a permanent stage, improved accessibility and – for cast and crew – new dressing rooms.

For tickets for any of this summer's productions at the Roman Theatre, visit www.ovo.org.uk