The season kicks off with The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde's 1895 classic comedy of Victorian upper-class manners. Patricia Routledge plays the infamous Lady Bracknell whose formidable personality prevents her nephew and his best friend from pursuing two young ladies who insist they can only fall in love with men named Ernest. The rest of the cast are: Thane Bettany, Jonathan Cecil, Alan Cox, Adam Godley, Rebecca Johnson, David Macmillan, Sheila Reid and Saskia Wickham. The production, directed by Chrisopher Morahan, opens 14 May (previews from 12 May) and continues until 17 July.
It's joined in repertory by David Turner's Semi-Detached, which follows the efforts of the class conscious, Midlands man Fred Midway as he desperately tries to scramble his way up the social ladder. The comedy was first performed in the West End in 1962 with Sir Laurence Olivier playing Fred. Now Likely Lads TV star James Bolam, who played Olivier's son in the original production, returns to take on the leading role. He is joined in the cast by Anna Carteret (seen most recently with Robert Lindsay in the RSC's production of Richard III in the West End), Linda Armstrong, Robert Austin, Catherine Holman, Charmian May and Robert Wilfort. Semi-Detached, also directed by Christopher Morahan, opens 28 May (previews from 26 May) and continues until 7 August.
Chichester celebrates the 100th anniversary of Noel Coward's birth with a production of his 1925 play, Easy Virtue, starring British film actress Greta Scacchi. When Colonel and Mrs Whittaker's only son marries an older woman - worse still, a divorcée with 'a past' - they flinch at the prospect of having to welcome her into their tightly ordered, upper middle class home. One question and one alone runs through their minds: what will people think? Directed by Maria Aitken, Easy Virtue opens 23 July (previews from 21 July) and continues until 2 October.
The 1999 season concludes with The Man Who Came to Dinner, Moss Hart and George S Kaufman's 1939 American comedy of errors which tells the tale of the dinner guest who wouldn't leave. When the irascible Sheridan Whiteside, a famous radio star and critic (based on the real life critic Alexander Woollcott, one of New York's notorious Algonquin set in the 1930s), slips and injures his hip outside the Stanley home, the family has to put him up - and put up with him - over Christmas. Whiteside completely takes over the house for his broadcasts, encourages the Stanley kids to defy their parents, attracts assorted eccentric friends and receives tons of fan mail and strange gifts. Richard Griffiths, who made his Chichester debut last year in William Nicholson's Katherine Howard, plays Whiteside. Griffiths is well-known for his roles in television and film projects such as Pie in the Sky and Withnail and I. His other recent stage credits include Art in the West End and Heartbreak House at the Almeida Theatre. The Man Who Came to Dinner, directed by Joe Dowling, artistic director of the Chichester's sister Tyrone Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, opens 13 August (previews from 11 August) and continues until 9 October.
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