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Nigel Havers and Christine Kavanagh visit Dartford ahead of performance of Oscar Wilde’s classic The Importance of Being Earnest

PUBLISHED: 11:57 03 August 2015 | UPDATED: 12:12 03 August 2015

Nigel Havers and Christine Kavanagh.

Nigel Havers and Christine Kavanagh.

Archant went to the Orchard Theatre to interview the stars.

The work of the iconic writer Oscar Wilde has been admired for decades.

And his well-loved play, The Importance of Being Earnest, continues to raise laughs and cheers from audiences to this day.

Now, a new production - starring Nigel Havers, Martin Jarvis and Christine Kavanagh- will put a fresh spin on the comic play.

Mr Havers and Ms Kavanagh made their way to the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, for a Q&A session last week - where they discussed what the show had in store.

They spoke to about the upcoming performance.

Mr Havers said: “I did this play in 1984 at the National Theatre with Martin Jarvis, and Dame Judi Dench played Lady Bracknell. We did it on and off for a year and a half and when we finished he said ‘we must do this again sometime, it’s such a wonderful play’.”

The pair met for lunch some years later and decided that they were going to do just that.

There was, however, one small hitch.

“We were too old to play those parts,” said Mr Havers.

“So we had to find a different way of doing it.”

This led to the creation of a ‘play within a play’, which tells the story of an amateur performance group who are putting on a production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

“You get this funny overtone where you are introduced to the characters. Some people came to see the show not knowing what to expect, they couldn’t work out what was going on. There was an element of surprise.” he said.

Ms Kavanagh added: “Many people felt this made it more accessible and more contemporary. Audiences love to be in on the joke.

“When Martin Jarvis is being interviewed to find out if he is a suitable man for one of the character’s daughters to marry, he says ‘I’m 29’ and you get roars of laughter.”

The Importance of Being Earnest lampoons and exposes the hypocrisy of Victorian society and tells the story of two bachelors - dependable John Worthing and upper-class playboy Algernon Moncrieff. Both of them feel compelled to take on different identities in order to pursue two eligible women - Cecily Cardew and Gwendolyn Fairfax.

Their misadventures lead to brushes with the redoubtable Lady Bracknell and Miss Prism.

And Ms Kavanagh thinks that the age of characters is actually an advantage.

“Now we are so much more experienced, we have been in the business for 30 to 40 years,” she explained.

“For the age of the cast we are very light on our feet. It’s very fluid and fast and we all love the play.”

Mr Havers added: “It’s quite a complicated play.

“Oscar had such a nimble mind that he assumed young people aged around 20 could do the same thing but they can’t always. We are a little too old for the roles but we are young at heart.”

Mr Havers will be reprising his role as Algernon Moncrieff, starring alongside Martin Jarvis - who will take on the role of John Worthing.

“Martin and I are very close, I can tell what he is thinking before he is thinking it,” said Mr Havers.

Ms Kavanagh will star as Cecily Cardew, and Sian Phillips will play Lady Bracknell.

Ms Kavanagh said: “At my age I get to play an 18-year-old, so what a gift! It’s my idea of heaven to turn the clock back and start all over again.

“Sian Phillips is an example to us all, she’s a consumate professional, she swoops on to the stage and is so commanding. In real life she is an absolute darling.”

The show will be coming to the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, from September 22 to 26.

“It’s a wonderful theatre. I have performed here a number of times before,” said Mr Havers.

For tickets visit or call the ticket office on 01322 220000.


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