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Library Closes Book With Earnest

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Oscar Wilde’s hilarious study of the social foibles of the Victorian leisure classes, The Importance of Being Earnest, begins a four-week run at the Library Theatre in Manchester on Saturday 5 June. Directed by Chris Honer, the theatre’s Artistic Director, it will make for an appropriate finale for the company’s 58-year tenure at Manchester’s historic Central Library - The Importance of Being Earnest was the company’s first-ever production at the Central Library, way back in 1952.

Widely regarded as one of the funniest plays ever written, this “trivial play for serious people”, as its author dubbed it, is sprinkled throughout with ingenious dialogue, and lines which are known to people who have never seen the play.

The eight strong cast are no strangers to the Library Theatre stage. Russell Dixon, who worked regularly at the theatre in the 1970s and whose last appearance on the Library stage was as Pozzo in Waiting For Godot in 2008, takes the role of the stern matriarch Lady Bracknell; Olwen May, last at the theatre in Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Soul of Szechuan in late 2009, plays reserved governess Miss Prism; Malcolm James, who played Ambrose in Alan Ayckbourn’s dark comedy Private Fears in Public Places in 2006, takes the role of mild-mannered vicar Canon Chasuble; Simon Harrison, who played Greg in Relatively Speaking at the Library in June 2009, plays Jack, a JP who divides his time between his country retreat and his London flat; and Leigh Symonds, seen earlier this year in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, plays two parts - Lane, a manservant; and Merriman, a butler.

The other three parts are played by actors making their Library Theatre debuts. Alex Felton, who has credits at the Old Vic in London and appeared last year in Marianne Elliott’s acclaimed production of All’s Well That Ends Well at the National Theatre, plays dashing bachelor Algernon Moncrieff; Wigan-born Natalie Grady, a member of the National Theatre cast of Rafta Rafta, plays Gwendolen Fairfax; while Florence Hall, with appearances in Doctors, Holby City, and Jonathan Creek, plays attractive young woman Cecily Cardew.

“The Importance of Being Earnest is a blissful summer play, and I’m delighted we have such a strong company for the production,” says Chris Honer, Library Theatre Artistic Director. “It should make for a fitting finale for the company’s time at the Central Library before we embark on the next exciting chapter in our history which will see us presenting productions at the Lowry, as well as a series of site-specific works at venues in Manchester.”

The Importance Of Being Earnest runs at the Library Theatre, Manchester from 5 June - 3 July.


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