The Importance of Being Earnest

by Oscar Wilde

directed by Brian Stansbridge

Performed in the Open Air at

Hamptworth Lodge, off Landford SP5 2EA (between Romsey and Salisbury)


16th to 26th July 2014


The Importance of Being Earnest was written by playwright, novelist, poet and all round literary genius, Oscar Wilde. It premiered in London in 1895 at St. James’s Theatre. Set in London and the English countryside during the late 19th century, it is a both a whimsical romantic comedy as well as a sharp-witted satire of Victorian society. It ruthlessly mocks the institution of marriage, the fatuousness of fashion and the absurdity of “respectability”.
Jack and Algernon are wealthy gentlemen. Jack (known to Algernon as Ernest) lives a respectable life in the country providing an example to his young ward Cecily. Algernon lives in luxury in London and has invented an imaginary invalid friend (Bunbury) whom he visits in the country whenever an unappealing social engagement presents itself. Jack has also invented a character - a wayward younger brother called Ernest whom he uses as pretext for going up to London and enjoying himself.
Jack wants to marry Algernon’s cousin Gwendolen, but must first convince her mother, Lady Bracknell, of the respectability of his parents. For Jack, having been abandoned in a handbag at Victoria station, this is quite a difficult task.
Algernon visits Jack’s house in the country and introduces himself to Cecily as Ernest, knowing that Cecily is already fascinated by tales of Ernest's wickedness. He further wins her over and they become engaged.  Shortly after, Jack arrives home announcing Ernest’s death. This sets off a series of farcical events. Cecily and Gwendolen have a genteel stand-off over which of them has a prior claim on ‘Ernest’. Jack and Algernon vie to be christened Ernest. Eventually, Jack discovers that his parents were Lady Bracknell’s sister and brother-in-law and that he is, in fact, Algernon’s older brother, called Ernest. The two sets of lovers are thus free to marry.
During these events the characters of Canon Chasuble and Cecily’s governess Miss Prism have also fallen in love, and in the best tradition of the well-made play the story ends with all the loose ends tied up and everyone set to live happily ever after.

The Author

Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin on 16 October 1854. Wilde was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford. While at Oxford, Wilde became involved in the aesthetic movement. After he graduated, he moved to London to pursue a literary career.
His output was diverse. A first volume of his poetry was published in 1881 but as well as composing verse, he contributed to publications such as the 'Pall Mall Gazette', wrote fairy stories and published a novel 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' (1891). His greatest talent was for writing plays, and he produced a string of extremely popular comedies including 'Lady Windermere's Fan' (1892), 'An Ideal Husband' (1895) and 'The Importance of Being Earnest' (1895). 'Salomé' was performed in Paris in 1896.
Drama and tragedy marred Wilde's private life. He married Constance Lloyd in 1884 and they had two sons, but in 1891 Wilde began an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas, nicknamed 'Bosie'. In April 1895, Wilde sued Bosie's father, the Marquis of Queensberry, for libel, after the Marquis has accused him of being homosexual. Wilde lost and, after details of his private life were revealed during the trial, was arrested and tried for gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years of hard labour. While in prison he composed a long letter to Douglas, posthumously published under the title 'De Profundis' . His wife took their children to Switzerland and adopted the name 'Holland'. Wilde was released with his health irrevocably damaged and his reputation ruined. He spent the rest of his life in Europe, publishing 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol' in 1898. He died in Paris on 30 November 1900.

The Director
Brian Stansbridge - Brian has been a Masker for over 40 years and has played many major roles, most recently including Long John Silver in Treasure Island, at Hamptworth Lodge. His directing credits include The Man in the Iron Mask, The Comedy of Errors and The Servant of Two Masters. He also plays in an occasional Rock Band, contributing on guitar, keyboard and vocals.
The Cast
Algernon 'Algy' Moncrieff is played by William Baggs. This will be William's third Maskers summer production. He was Lysander in Midsummer Night's Dream. Then last year a change of tack and King James the First in Anne Boleyn. This year will be different again. He loves Wilde having played Lord Goring in An Ideal Husband. And now it's Algernon. He is really looking forward to it.
John 'Jack' Worthing is played by Steve Clark. Steve last appeared at Maskers’ studio theatre as Jim, in The Weir. He’s enjoyed a wide variety of roles over 24 years as a Masker - including Danforth in The Crucible, Frank in Educating Rita, Dominic in Amy’s View and Lopakhin in The Cherry Orchard. Recent productions at Winchester’s Chesil Theatre include Deep Blue Sea and Hedda Gabler. In real life, Steve works at the University of Southampton. This is Steve’s first outdoor production – and first Wilde! He’s enjoying both challenges – and keeping fingers crossed for sunny evenings.
Gwendolen Fairfax is played by Jo Fox. Jo has been a Masker since 2007 and played a few small roles in her early years with the company, including a first appearance at Hamptworth Lodge as the cafe waiter in The Comedy of Errors. Her first major role was the part of Lady Jane Rochford, in last year's production of Anne Boleyn at Hamptworth. Soon afterwards she appeared as art class student, Josie, in Sitting Pretty, at the Nuffield in January 2014. The Importance of being Earnest is one of her absolute favourite plays and she's excited to be playing the part of Gwendolen.
Cecily Cardew is played by Katherine Evans. This is Katherine's first performance with Maskers, having previously played a wide range of roles with other local companies. A keen singer, her credits include Josephine (HMS Pinafore), Yum-Yum (The Mikado), Frederic (The Pirates of Penzance), Miss Hannigan (Annie) and Belle (Beauty and the Beast), for which she won a Daily Echo Curtain Call Award. She recently made her directorial debut with Pocket Theatre's production of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, in which she also took the part of Johanna. Katherine is currently studying for A levels in Classical languages and English Literature, and plans to continue with these subjects at University.
Lady Augusta Bracknell is played by Hazel Burrows. Hazel has been a Masker since the early seventies, enjoying performing in a huge variety of plays. She is equally at home playing comic or dramatic characters from the pig with a wiggly tail in the ‘Owl and the Pussycat’ to Mrs Ford in the ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’. In recent years Hazel has been directing, most recently with ‘Sitting Pretty’ at the Nuffield Theatre. Hazel is delighted to be playing Lady Bracknell.
Dr. Frederick Chasuble is played by Paul Baker. Paul has been in every Maskers Open air show since 1996. He won a Daily Echo Curtain Call award playing Weasel Norman in Wind In The Willows. Last year he played the foul mouthed Thomas Cromwell who brought about the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church and is looking forward to playing a man of the cloth in this years production.
Miss Laetitia Prism is played by Angela Stansbridge. Angela is delighted to be returning to Hamptworth Lodge where she was last seen as a whacky Mustard Seed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as drunken Captain Flint in Treasure Island when she was required to throw herself overboard every night! She is hoping Miss Prism will be not be required to take up such dangerous pursuits. Angela has been an active member of Maskers for 40 years – she is rarely seen without bundles of publicity flyers as she is part of the hard working marketing team!
Lane, Algy's Butler is played by Alan Watson. Alan has been a Masker for nearly forty years and has been involved in over thirty productions ranging from Journeys End to A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and from Ladies Day to King Lear. In this production his main challenge is the cucumber sandwiches.
Merriman is played by Marcus Kinsella. Marcus will be playing a butler in his 3rd consecutive “Maskers” outdoor production. This will be his 7th Maskers production in the last 2½ years alone and 20th play in a hectic 7 year period! He’s looking forward to having fun in the sun (hopefully!) with the rest of the cast and the great Hamptworth audiences!
Footman is played by Adam Taussik. Adam is playing the Footman, who, for various reasons (presumably known only to himself), dear Oscar neglected to name - I think we'll call him George. Since I was the King of England last year, I've been demoted to the lower classes again, but hard work and dedication (and fortunate casting) may bring me back to the nobility eventually. When not in livery, I have another life in Student Services at the University of Southampton.
For the Maskers:  
Production Manager: Christine Baker
Technical Director: Jamie McCarthy
Stage Manager: Meri Mackney
Assistant Stage Manager: Tom Foyle
Set Design: John Hamon
Lighting Designer: Clive Weeks
Sound Designer: Jamie McCarthy
Technical Team : David Cowley, Mike Matthias, Nick Lawther, Martyn Welch, Gail Blues, Bob Gibson, Nathan Weeks
Costume Design: Serena Brown
Costume Team: Janet Scott, Susan Wilson, Marie McDade
Properties: Adam Taussik
Set Dressing: Angela Stansbridge
Stage Crew: Molly Martinson, Robert Osborne, Mike Matkowski, Jenni Watson
Front of House Managers: Geoff Cook, Pam Cook
Box Office Manager: Christine Baker
Marketing Team: Sarah Russell, Angela Stansbridge, Jo Welch, Zannah Lawther, Greg Parr
Photography: Clive Weeks
Front of House Display: Sarah Russell

"Thank you for a superb performance last night, what a great evening. It's our three generations outing each year and you never let us down, congratulations to all."
- KH, Dibden Purlieu

"I wanted to thank you for a lovely production and such a happy relaxed evening at Hampworth when we came to see Importance of being Earnest - and the rain stayed away - just! I last came to a production of yours at Hampworth when you did Tom Jones and my daughter and I came on the only evening when it rained - and you still carried on and most of stayed - we still talk about this production - will never forget it! Yesterday it was so relaxing to sit in the beautiful grounds with a picnic and watching the lovely play - so thank you so much I do hope that none of your sets were damaged in last night's "interesting"? storm and that you avoid them for the rest of the production run - i'd love to come back again but don't think i have a free night Could you on behalf of myself, and I am sure, the rest of the audience thank the new owners for allowing you to continue to use their grounds - hope that this will be the case for next summer too." (ed - yes it is the case!)
- DM, Fordingbridge

"I just want to say that we came to Importance last evening and had a wonderful time - a great night of theatre. Congratulations to just everyone - front of house, director, cast, set, publicity... We have been coming to the Maskers for quite some years (Mottisfont and Hamptworth) and sometimes to the Nuffield, and they seem to get better and better. Of course it is a wonderful play, but you did it so well."
- RH, Chichester

"Set within the magnificent grounds of Hamptworth Lodge, a collection of players earnestly poked and prodded Victorian social ideals with japes and jollities.
Performing Oscar Wilde’s witty classic upon an outdoor mezzanine, formed as part of the beautiful landscaping, the team of ten didn’t fail to disappoint and the audience’s endless titters could be heard echoing against the Jacobean style manor house.
William Baggs’ portrayal of Algy Moncrieff’s cynicism was delivered in some rather quirky attire, while Jack Worthing, played by Steve Clark, and his bumbling over his beloved Gwendolen (Jo Fox) was very entertaining. His sweeter side was displayed for the most part, despite his trickery! Hazel Burrows’s depiction of the harsh Lady Bracknell was delivered with such sternness it was difficult not to giggle.
Despite a few technical issues caused by the rain the previous night the cast and crew did splendidly well, and decorated parts of the garden wall with powerful yet dainty fairy lights giving the makeshift set an almost ethereal quality.
Even if you’re not familiar with Wilde’s works I would strongly recommend grabbing a picnic basket and a couple of chairs and enjoying this beautiful setting and talented thespians."
- Lauren Howard, Southern Daily Echo, Tuesday 22nd July 2014


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Maskers Theatre Company
Off Emsworth Road
SO15 3LX

Registered Charity 900067

Established 1968

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