Dramatic society tackles Wilde’s satire on Victorian morals and manners

The Importance of Being Earnest by Cuckfield Dramatic Society
The Importance of Being Earnest by Cuckfield Dramatic Society

Fresh from their success with Racing Demon in November and their annual February Frolics of comedy and sketches, The Cuckfield Dramatic Society are turning their attention to a classic comedy – Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

This satire on Victorian manners and morals finds a pair of young gentlemen, Jack Worthing and Algy Moncrieff, taking on the guise of Earnest in order to woo two highly eligible young ladies, Misses Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax.

Their subterfuge leads to confrontation with the inimitable Lady Bracknell (Gwendolen’s mother) before the secret of the neurotic Miss Prism, (Cecily’s governess) is exposed. Wilde’s witty and apposite writing lets the characters expose both themselves and the double standards of upper class Victorian society.

The play was a huge hit in London before the scandal of Wilde’s private life caused its run to be prematurely ended. But it has been revised countless times, notably with Dame Edith Evans and Margaret Rutherford before World War II, whose performances were immortalised on film in 1952.

Last year Brighton theatre goers had the chance to see the play re-performed by the cast of Sir Peter Hall’s 1982 National Theatre production, including Martin Jarvis, Nigel Havers and Judi Dench.

At Cuckfield the role of Lady Bracknell will be taken by Philip Robinson, who impressed everyone as the pompous rhetoric spouting Bishop of Southwark in Racing Demon, and who showed a lively hand at comedy as the hapless Norman in February’s short play Bridge Too Far. Treading in the footsteps of theatrical Dames, (Evans, Dench, and Smith), Philip will play the role straight rather than in falsetto, or with any kind of pantomime performance.

This is not the first time that Lady Bracknell has been played by a man. Geoffrey Rush played it in Melbourne and Brian Bedford took the role on Broadway to great acclaim. In July former Poirot David Suchet will put on Lady B’s dresses in the West End.

Other cast members at Cuckfield include some newer and younger faces, with Emma Gosling as Miss Prism, David Corbett as Jack, Tom Hounsham as Algy, India Whitehouse as Gwendolen and Sam Oliver as Cecily.

Booking information

The show runs from Wednesday to Saturday, May 27 to 30 (8pm), at Queen’s Hall, High Street, Cuckfield.

Tickets cost £8 (Wednesday) and £10 (Thursday to Saturday) plus booking charges where applicable.

Tickets can be purchased without booking fees through CDS’s usual ticket agents, Mansell McTaggart in Cuckfield High Street and Wealden Stores at Whitemans Green.

They are also available from www.cuckfielddramaticsociety.com or by phone from their ticket agency on 0333 666 3366 (local rate), Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm, and Saturday, 9am to 5pm. Booking fees of up to 10 percent and an additional £1.50 telephone service charge apply to phone and online.

For enquiries email info@cuckfielddramaticsociety.com or call 0845 591 1291.

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Cuckfield Dramatic Society was established over 20 years ago and has received awards and plaudits for their plays.

A registered charity, the group work to educate, entertain and involve the local community in drama and the performing arts.