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The Importance of Being Earnest (1982)

The Importance of Being Earnest


A play by Oscar Wilde, performed at the Lyttelton, National Theatre, London (opened 16 September 1982), during a regional tour (27 September - 27 November 1982) and then again at the Lyttelton (closed 24 March 1983).

Performance length: 2 hours and 30 minutes (including two intervals)


The Importance of Being Earnest image #1 The Importance of Being Earnest image #2 The Importance of Being Earnest image #3 The Importance of Being Earnest image #4 The Importance of Being Earnest image #5 The Importance of Being Earnest image #6 The Importance of Being Earnest image #7

The first photo shows Elizabeth Garvie and Zoë Wanamaker in rehearsal.  The second shows Zoe Wanamaker and Judi Dench, also in rehearsal.  The third shows Judi Dench, Zoe Wanamaker, Nigel Havers, and Elizabeth Garvie, again in rehearsal.  The fourth shows members of the cast and crew.  The fifth and sixth show Gwendolen Fairfax (played by Zoe Wanamaker) and Cecily Cardew (Elizabeth Garvie).  The seventh shows Lady Bracknell (Judi Dench), John Worthing (Martin Jarvis), and Gwendolen.

With thanks to Nadine for some of these photos.


Nigel Havers ... Algernon Moncrieff

Brian Kent ... Lane

Martin Jarvis ... John Worthing, JP

Judi Dench ... Lady Bracknell

Zoë Wanamaker ... Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax

Anna Massey ... Miss Prism

Elizabeth Garvie ... Cecily Cardew

Paul Rogers ... Rev. Canon Chasuble, DD

John Gill ... Merriman

Alan Haywood ... Footman


Director: Peter Hall
Design and Lighting: John Bury
Assistant Designer: Sue Jenkinson
Staff Director: Kenneth Mackintosh
Production Manager: Rodger Hulley
Stage Manager: Diana Boddington
Deputy Stage Manager: Karen Stone
Assistant Stage Managers: Angela Fairclough and Graham Mitchell
Sound: Chris Montgomery
Assistant to the Lighting Designer: Ronnie Cox
Assistant Production Manager: Susan Usher
Pianist: Irita Kutchmy
Production Photographer: Zoë Dominic
Programme Compiler: Tim Goodwin
Programme Designers: Richard Bird and Michael Mayhew


When preparing to make their entrances in this National Theatre Company production of The Importance of Being Earnest, Zoe and Judi Dench lessened their nerves with humour.  In writer Malcolm Hays's words, 'they would sometimes indulge in what became a long-standing joke, urging each other on with the thought ''it could be worse - we could be pulling that wagon in Mother Courage around!'''  (They found themselves doing just that when appearing together in Mother Courage and Her Children a couple of years later!)

Playing an English aristocrat in Wilde's play made Zoe very aware of her heritage, as she explains: 'Doing a very, very English play with very, very English people, like Judi, Anna Massey, Nigel Havers and Paul Rogers, it was the first time I’d ever felt American and Jewish by comparison'.  Despite these reservations, she emphasises that the play gave her the opportunity to perform with 'a fantastic company' of actors (the comments appeared in a Broadway.com interview, which is no longer online).

The very next day after The Importance of Being Earnest closed, Zoe went to Stratford for the first preview of The Time of Your Life.  This is proof, if it were needed, of how busy and in-demand she is as an actress.

The Importance of Being Earnest was the first of Zoe's many productions as a member of the National Theatre Company.  In addition to Wilde's play, she has starred in The Bay at Nice & Wrecked Eggs (1986), Mrs Klein (1988), The Crucible (1990), Battle Royal (1999), His Girl Friday (2003), The Rose Tattoo (2007), and Much Ado About Nothing (2007). 

Zoë has worked with four out of the five artistic directors at the National to date (i.e. Peter Hall, Richard Eyre, Trevor Nunn, and Nicholas Hytner). Strong ties with the company have led to her becoming a National Theatre Associate, giving her the power to influence the theatre's artistic policy.

Press coverage

'The most sublime comedy of the English stage reaches new heights at the Lyttelton', enthused Peter Hepple in The Stage.


The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Related links

The Importance of Being Earnest production photo - Guardian

The Importance of Being Earnest production photo - Photostage (search the website using the keywords 'Wanamaker' and 'Importance' to find the photo)

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