Perhaps Wilde's most famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest tells the complicated story of Victorian love and manners. Jack Worthing is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax, daughter of the formidable Lady Bracknell and cousin to his friend Algernon Moncrieff. Meanwhile, Cecily, Jack's young ward, is is love with Algernon. The question of Jack's parentage, an illusory invalid and the invention of a wayward brother all complicate things further.
Patricia Routledge makes her debut as Lady Bracknell in this production. A Chichester player since 1969, Routledge has also regularly appeared in productions for the National and the RSC as well as on on the West End. Her portrayal of Hyacinth Bucket in the BBC series Keeping Up Appearances earned her the title of Top Television Comedy Actress for 1991. She also stars in the series Hetty Wainthrop Investigates.
Saskia Wickham plays Gwendolyn. Wickham is best known for her TV roles in shows such as Peak Practice, Circle of Deceit and Our Friends in the North. Her theatre credits include David Hare's Racing Demon and Absence of War at the National Theatre.
Routledge and Wickham are joined in the cast by Thane Bettany, Jonathan Cecil, Alan Cox, Adam Godley, Rebecca Johnson, David Macmillan and Sheila Reid. The Importance of Being Earnest is directed by Christopher Morahan (who directed last summer's production of Racing Demon), with designs by Peter Rice, lighting by Robert Bryan and sound by John Leonard.
The third play of the Chichester season, Noel Coward's Easy Virtue, starring Greta Scacchi, is also expected to transfer to the West End sometime this autumn though a venue has not yet been confirmed. It plays at Chichester 27 July to 2 October (previews from 21 July).