Ncuti Gatwa will return to the London stage to star in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ this Christmas

Newly minted Timelord Ncuti Gatwa will make his return to the London stage this Christmas as he anchors the first National Theatre production of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in four decades.

In his first theatre role since taking over as the Doctor, Gatwa will take on the lead role of eligible young bachelor Algernon, alongside Hugh Skinner as his best mate Jack. In Wilde’s classic comedy of mistaken identity, the two lads become entangled in a web of lies as they attempt to woo two young ladies who are under the supervision of the formidable Lady Bracknell (Sharon D Clarke).

Irish playwright Wilde’s play has become such a touchstone for twentieth century British humour that high profile revivals are relatively rare these days: the very act of staging it almost feels like a cliché, and directors seem a bit confused as to what to actually do with it.

But the innovative Max Webster seems like a fine choice of director. He has an impressive history of shaking up Shakespeare plays – he directed fellow Doctor David Tennant’s binaural ‘Macbeth’, amongst other things – and even if the vibe was total trad, it’s a superb cast.

New Doctor Who star Gatwa hasn’t acted on stage since he got his big screen break with Netflix smash ‘Sex Education’. Before that, though, he was a regular on the boards, first in his native Scotland and then in London with big roles in Emma Rice’s ‘946’ and her phenomenal 2016 production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

This should be a very hot ticket, but it’s an intriguing choice of show – even if his profile is much bigger, taking a role in a slightly unfashionable ensemble comedy suggests Gatwa wants to ease his way back into stage work. 

The NT has been drip dripping out the announcement of what is likely to be Rufus Norris’s final Christmas of programming before Indhu Rubasingham takes over next year – ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ will run in the Lyttelton theatre, at the same time as a new stage adaptation of Noel Streatfeild’s ‘Ballet Shoes’ runs in the Olivier.

‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is at the National Theatre, Nov 20-Jan 25 2025. Tickets go on general sale Thursday May 23.

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