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Dominic Dromgoole's Classic Spring announces year-long celebration of Oscar Wilde in West End

Photo by Laura Radford

Season preview

CLASSIC Spring, a new theatre company from former Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe Dominic Dromgoole, has announced first casting and creatives for a year-long celebration of Oscar Wilde at the Vaudeville Theatre.

An iconoclast, a socialist and a gay Irishman in the socially conservative late-Victorian era, Oscar Wilde broke the mould in his work and in his life. Opening in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, this season aims to offer a much fuller picture of the man and the artist, and reveal this much-loved playwright as the brilliant renegade he was in his own time.

Interspersed with the plays will be a curated series of interludes and ‘Wilde Talks’ that will reveal the deep current of radicalism and subversiveness that runs through all of Wilde’s writing.

Eve Best will star as Mrs Arbuthnot in A Woman of No Importance from October 6 to December 30, 2017, directed by Dominic Dromgoole. Best recently starred in Old Times on Broadway alongside Clive Owen, and Love In Idleness at the Menier Chocolate Factory and in the West End. She has won an Olivier Award, an Evening Standard Award and three Critics’ Circle Awards, and been nominated for two Tony Awards.

Other early casting includes Eleanor Bron as Lady Pontefract, and William Gaunt as the Venerable Archdeacon Daubeny. Bron first shot to fame as Ahme in the Beatles’ film Help!, and also starred in the original Alfie with Michael Caine. Gaunt’s credits include King Lear opposite Ian McKellen in the West End and on film, and The Crucible at the Old Vic.

Merlin Holland, Oscar Wilde’s grandson, will give a pre-show talk on October 14. Holland is the author of A Portrait of Oscar Wilde and The Wilde Album.

From December 15, 2017, a family show based on Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales, entitled Wilde Creatures and produced by Olivier Award-nominated Tall Stories, will cater to everyone aged 5 – 105 and help create new generations of future theatre-lovers.

Frank McGuinness will adapt De Profundis, Wilde’s letter to Lord Alfred Bosie from Reading Gaol, for the stage, for a limited engagement from January 3 to January 6, 2018. McGuinness is an acclaimed playwright, poet and translator, and has won numerous awards and prizes throughout his distinguished career, including a Tony Award, an Irish PEN Award and the French Order of Arts and Letters.

Multi-award-winning actor, director, comedian and playwright Kathy Burke will direct Lady Windermere’s Fan from January 12 to April 7, 2018. Burke starred in Gary Oldman’s film Nil by Mouth, for which she won Best Actress at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Her other screen credits include Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Dancing in Lughnasa, Absolutely Fabulous and French and Saunders.

Burke has directed at many of London’s leading venues, including the Donmar Warehouse, the Royal Court and the Hampstead Theatre. Her other awards include a Royal Television Society Award, a British Independent Film Award and a British Comedy Award; she has also been nominated for six BAFTAs.

Lady Windermere’s Fan will be followed by An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest. Casting, creatives and dates will be announced in due course.

A limited run of lightly-staged performances for a new folk opera by Guy Chambers, entitled The Selfish Giant, will start in April 2018, offering a unique opportunity for audiences to see a work in progress by one of the world’s most acclaimed contemporary songwriters.

Chambers is a long-time collaborator with Robbie Williams, having co-written many of his most popular hits, including Angels, Millennium and Let Me Entertain You. He has also collaborated with Kylie Minogue, Rufus Wainwright, Mark Ronson and Diana Ross, amongst others. He has won three BRIT Awards, three Ivor Novello awards and an MTV Video Music Award.

Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director of Classic Spring, said: “My ten years as Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe allowed me to explore Shakespeare in the kind of theatre he wrote for: the thrust stage and open air of the ‘wooden O’. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do the same with Oscar Wilde, in the kind of space he wrote for: the velvety darkness and proscenium arched stage of one of the West End’s most perfect playhouses, the Vaudeville, just across the road from where Wilde once lived, loved, wrote and entertained at his very first home in London.”

Across the season, over 20,000 tickets under £20 will be made available to encourage younger audiences and make the season accessible to everyone.