YOU are not seeing double. Yes, Theatre Mill did stage Oscar Wilde’s “trivial comedy for serious people” as their debut production in the York Mansion House last summer, but the York company is taking a different walk on the Wilde side this month.

Director Samuel Wood does not so much revive his show as re-imagine Wilde’s comedy of mischief, high-society manners and afternoon tea.

Instead of two rooms to signify town pad and country manor, Wood has jettisoned the Mansion House dining room in favour of keeping all three acts in the state room, to which you are guided by a maid or butler.

Beneath rows of fairy lights, Wood and designer Natalie Roe have relocated the Earnest deeds to the roaring 1920s, the post-war age of swinging jazz, social extravagance, art deco screens, newly empowered women and flapper fashions. And still the niceties of cucumber sandwiches, muffins and cake.

Out go pre-show and interval barbershop or folk songs; in swings The After Hours Rauchestra, three gentlemanly York street musicians in Oxford bags to accompany the play throughout. First they jazz up the mood in Algernon Moncrieff’s London residence, then they sit in on the action, their presence acknowledged and played on by the cast, before they finish the night leading the company through two dance numbers. And all that jazz goes down a treat.

Wood’s second judicious move is to reunite Liam Tims and Adam Elms after their Holmes and Watson double act last year, promptly casting them against previous type. Elms, hair dutifully permed for the required curls of Algy, taps into his previously dormant physical comedy skills and delightful timing; he is the ideal exasperating foil to the taller Tims’s increasingly exasperated John Worthing MP.

The distant Python echoes of Terry Jones versus John Cleese add to the pleasure, as does the striped attire. Two notes to Liam: your trousers need braces to hang better; and watch out for the occasional slip into northern vowels.

Transporting the play to the 1920s chimes with how women’s position in society was strengthening at that time. Certainly Jack and Algy come across as trivial by comparison with Lady Bracknell, her resolute/rebellious daughter Gwendolen Fairfax and Worthing’s 18-year-old ward Cecily Cardew. All three are driven by serous intent and a sense of time ticking by.

Lady Bracknell has often been played as a bosomy battle-axe and snob, but Prue Gillett’s sleeker Lady B is on trend, younger and fashion-conscious, but a savvy social commentator too, closer in spirit to Dorothy Parker. As sharp as a Gillett should be.

Wood has cast equally cannily in the gamine-figured Stephanie de Whalley for flapper-girl town sophisticate Gwendolen and Isobel Hughes as the natural, unaffected Cecily, blossoming like the roses in Worthing’s country garden. They spar and plot with pleasing chemistry.

David Chafer’s northern Canon Chasuble (Wood moves the country manor to Yorkshire) and Mandy Newby’s Miss Prism (the one returnee) amuse too and Harry Lee’s Merriman is as impeccable as a butler should be.

Wildely entertaining.

The Importance Of Being Earnest, Theatre Mill, York Mansion House, St Helen’s Square, York, until August 17. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

Exclusive Offer - Sunday 20th July (7.30pm). Quote Worthing1 when booking for this performance and receive a 40% discount (not available when booking online). Box Office York Theatre Royal 01904 623 568