Penelope Keith (pictured) returned to the West End last night (31 January, previews from 22 January) as the famous matron with a handbag fixation, Lady Bracknell, in Peter Gill’s new revival of Oscar Wilde’s classic 1895 comedy The Importance of Being Earnest (See News, 28 Aug 2007). Following a national tour, the production is now running for a limited season to 28 April 2008 at the Vaudeville Theatre.

In The Importance of Being Earnest, prim-and-proper Jack Worthington is in love with the equally prim-and-proper Gwendolen Fairfax. His friend Algernon Moncrieff is in love with Cecily Cardew. But both Gwendolen and Cecily are in love with Ernest. Meanwhile, the imposing Lady Bracknell is dubious about a story involving a handbag …

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The last major West End outing for the Wilde comedy was at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 1999, when Patricia Routledge played Lady Bracknell in Christopher Morahan’s production transferred from the Chichester Festival (See News, 11 Jun 1999). In Gill’s production, designed by William Dudley, Keith is joined by Janet Henfrey, William Ellis, Harry Hadden-Paton, Daisy Haggard, Rebecca Night and Maxwell Hutcheon.

For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand for the post-show party at the Cafe in the Crypt along with the cast, creative team and other first-night guests including Peter Bowles, Lucy Bailey and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. Wooller also dropped in to the Vaudeville Theatre last week to catch the costumed cast in action on stage.

-by Terri Paddock