British postcard by St. James’s Theatre, London, 1895. Photo: The Daily Mirror Studios.
The Importance of Being Earnest is a play by Oscar Wilde. It was first performed on 14 February 1895 at the St James’s Theatre in London. Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play’s major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways. Contemporary reviews all praised the play’s humour, though some were cautious about its explicit lack of social messages, while others foresaw the modern consensus that it was the culmination of Wilde’s artistic career so far. Its high farce and witty dialogue have helped make The Importance of Being Earnest Wilde’s most enduringly popular play.
Sir George Alexander (1858-1918) was an English actor and theatre manager. One of his most famous stage roles was in The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, which premiered in 1896.
British actress Mrs Patrick Campbell (1865-1940) was by far the biggest name on the London stage of the belle époque, famous for her wit, temperament and beauty. She was the original Eliza Dolittle in Pygmalion (1914) a part written especially for her by her lifelong friend George Bernard Shaw. In her later years, ‘Mrs. Pat’ made notable film appearances as a dowager in One More River (1934) and in Crime and Punishment (1935).
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Poster for Victorien Sardou`s Gismonda starring Sarah Bernhardt at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris (1894). Alphonse Mucha (Czech, Art Nouveau, 1860-1939).
Gismonda is a Greek melodrama in four acts by Sardou that premiered in 1894. The show at Renaissance starred Sarah Bernhardt as Gismonda and Lucien Guitry as Almerio. The show would go to broadway at the Fifth Avenue Theatre on December 11, 1894 and end in February 1895.