‘Timelessly funny’ Oscar Wilde meets Made in Chelsea at Lauderdale House

Lauderdale House

Lauderdale House - Credit: Archant

This August the arts centre plays host to Oscar Wilde’s much-loved comedy The Importance of Being Earnest.

Since Lauderdale House is associated with Nell Gwynn one of England’s earliest actresses, it’s apt that open-air theatre on its tea lawn has become a fixture of Highgate’s summer calendar.

This August the arts centre plays host to Oscar Wilde’s much-loved comedy The Importance of Being Earnest.

While the interior is closed until October pending a £2.3 million refurbishment it continues to host pop-up events at nearby venues and in Waterlow Park.

The Irish writer’s most celebrated play is usually seen as a humorous critique of Victorian social norms.

But Shooting Stars Theatre Company’s production has invested it with a twist.

Director Helen Crosse says while preserving Wilde’s original witty dialogue she has brought the story up-to-date with the modern dress, music and accents.

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She said: “When re-reading the play earlier this year, I was struck by how timelessly funny it was.

“The central characters of Jack and Algernon, although foppish, bear a strong resemblance to many young men from upper class backgrounds today.

“Lady Bracknell is a woman whom cares deeply about how she and her family are perceived and only wants the best for her daughter when it comes to marriage, something many women are like in modern society, especially those in the upper echelons.”

This fresh interpretation of the text recognises “our society’s obsession with extreme wealth”, Crosse adds.

“We are still very much fascinated by what we don’t have and the idea of being a fly on the wall in households where money is no issue.

“If we weren’t then shows such as Made in Chelsea and The Hills would not exist!”

The play, which also explores marriage, is chiefly a comical look at how the other half lives.

“What seem incredibly important matters to them would be insignificant to the rest of the population.

Everyone loves a bit of voyeurism and actually likes to laugh at those more fortunate than themselves, usually as a result of the jealousy of their privileged situation.”

Shooting Stars has entertained audiences and won awards thanks to its accessible, family-friendly productions.

As a founder and director of previous successful productions at Lauderdale House, Crosse is particularly passionate about outdoor theatre.

“It includes the audience in the performance - they become part of it,” she says.

The Importance of Being Earnest will be performed outside and will go ahead whatever the weather, so make sure to bring suitable clothing and an umbrella if necessary.

Tickets from £12. 7pm, 12-14, 19-21 August. Lauderdale House, Waterlow Park. Bookings on: 02083488716 or email enquiries@lauderdale.org.uk. Find out more at lauderdalehouse.co.uk