Breaking Baz: ‘Doctor Who’ & ‘Barbie’s’ Ncuti Gatwa Stars With Sharon D Clarke And Hugh Skinner In Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance Of Being Earnest’ At UK’s National Theatre; ‘Live Aid’ Musical Transfers To Toronto

Doctor Who’s
Ncuti Gatwa and W1A’s Hugh Skinner will star in a National Theatre revival of Oscar Wilde’s play about courtships, betrothals, and confused identities. The Importance of Being Earnest also stars three-time Olivier Award winner Sharon D. Clarke playing the imperious Lady Bracknell.

Director Max Webster, making his NT debut, told Deadline exclusively that casting Gatwa and Skinner as the idle bachelors Algernon Moncrieff and Jack Worthing -both leading double lives – who pursue two young women, both determined to marry someone called Ernest, and with Clarke as the dreadnaught dowager decreeing her own rules of class, taste, and propriety, was “a dream come true.”

More from Deadline

Webster and the NT’s casting director Alastair Coomer have also assembled Richard Cant (Bleak House, The Way We Live Now) to play Reverend Canon Chasuble and comic genius Amanda Lawrence (Star Wars, Suffragette) as Miss Prism in the 1895 satire, which will run in the NT’s Lyttelton Theatre from November 20 through January 25, 2025.

Richard Cant. Photo by Ruth Crafer.
Richard Cant. Photo by Ruth Crafer.
Amanda Lawrence. Photo by Rii Schroer.
Amanda Lawrence. Photo by Rii Schroer.

The director, clearly, has a way of attracting talent from the BBC’s long-running science fiction drama about an extra-terrestrial who travels through time in a Tardis.

Recently, Webster directed David Tenant, a famous Doctor Who, as Macbeth at the Donmar Warehouse. It also starred Cush Jumbo, who played Lois Habiba in Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood.

Macbeth will transfer to the Harold Pinter Theatre on October 1. Webster told me that “fingers are crossed” to take Macbeth to Broadway. “There are conversations,” though he cautioned, “One step at a time.”

He said that he’s “always loved” Wilde’s classic, “and the fact that it’s so genuinely funny. I think it must be one of the funniest and most brilliant bits of English language ever written.”

Webster also observed that “for all its wonderfulness and joyfulness, it’s also quite subversive.”

The story that underpins The Importance of Being Earnest is just as gripping as what takes places on stage.

Wilde penned The Importance of Being Earnest at a time when he was precariously balancing life with his wife and children, and while he was still in touch with his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, whose father, the Marquess of Queensbury, was furious at their relationship.

The double lives led by Algernon and Jack in the play were a comment on Wilde’s own double life.

“It was controversial when it was written,” said Webster, in reference to The Importance of Being Earnest opening in London as the Marquess of Queensbury publicly accused Wilde of being a homosexual. The playwright sued Queensbury for libel, lost, and was subsequently found guilty of gross indecency, resulting in a two-year term in jail.

Webster observed that “along with all its joy,” the play’s a “manifesto for being able to be yourself and not be boxed in, and for the joys of self-invention, and that feels like that has something really wonderful and relevent to speak to our modern world whilst still being a good Christmas comedy.”

Ncuti shot to stardom with four seasons of Netflix show Sex Education, a role in Apple TV+’s Masters of the Air, and of course, playing ‘artist Ken’ in Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster Barbie. And he helped wow a worldwide audience when he joined number one ‘Ken’, Ryan Gosling, and a host of other Kens to perform a rollicking rendition of ‘I’m Just Ken’, performed as an homage to Marilyn Monroe’s musical number for “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes during the 96th Oscars ceremony. The Kenergy at the Dolby Theater was unbelievably breathtaking.

Ryan Gosling and Ncuti Gatwa
Ryan Gosling and Ncuti Gatwa in Barbie.

However, Webster said that he has admired Gatwa since he saw him at Shakespeare’s Globe playing Demetrius in Emma Rice’s production of A Midsummers Night’s Dream in 2018. “And then, of course, thought he was fabulous in Sex Education, funny and moving and all the good things.

“I thought he would be a really witty, flamboyant, and fabulous Algy, and he was the first person I thought of, it’s amazing he’s doing this,” he added.

Gatwa debuted the role of The Doctor in the 2023 Doctor Who Christmas special.

'Doctor Who' star Ncuti Gatwa is repped by Curtis Brown
‘Doctor Who’ star Ncuti Gatwa.

His first full season in Doctor Who will launch on BBC1 and BBX iPlayer in the U.K. and Disney+, and elsewhere on May 11.

Equally, Webster lauded Clarke for her “power,strength and weight” as an actor, citing her award-winning stage roles in the NT’s version of Amen Corner; Caroline,or Change, a production that began at the Chichester Festival Theatre, moved to Hampstead Theatre, and then the West End’s Playhouse Theatre, after which it crossed over to the Roundabout’s Studio 54 Theatre, and then the Young Vic and Elliott-Harper production of Death of a Salesman that played at the Young Vic, Piccadilly Theatre at the Hudson Theatre on Broadway, with Wendall Pierce as Willy Loman. Clarke played Kinda Loman.

Sharon D Clarke and Wendall Pierce in Death of A Salesman at the Young Vic. Photo by Baz Bamigboye/Deadline.
Sharon D Clarke and Wendall Pierce in Death of A Salesman at the Young Vic. Photo by Baz Bamigboye/Deadline.

I have also seen Clarke, one of our greatest thespians, in countless other stage shows from the Kiln Theatre in north London to the Hackney Empire in East London, and not forgetting her sublime turn in the titular role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, directed by Dominic Cooke, at the National in 2016.

Clarke’s currently shooting the three-part detective drama Ellis, playing the title role for Acorn and the UK’s Channel 5.

Webster said that in some way Lady Bracknell “represents the forces of Victorian conservatism, and to have someone of Sharon’s charisma doing that is totally brilliant.”

Skinner ,who has appeared in Fleabag, The Windsors, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, and Poldark, appears in the recently released feature, Wicked Little Letters. His many stage roles include Yepikhodov in The Cherry Orchard at the Young Vic and Lewis in American Psycho at the Almeida Theatre.

Hugh Skinner. Photo by Rankin.
Hugh Skinner. Photo by Rankin.

The NT’s The Importance of Being Earnest will be a “reimagined” version.

Asked what that means, Webster said: ”We’re going to be in the Victorian era, but you know, there are various ways of not being completely reverential about it.”

He said that the sets and costumes designed by Rae Smith will be done “with a modern fashion edge to it, in the way that Wilde was fabulous and subversive in his time, pushing forward style to the point where it’s almost like a political point or a cultural point. Hopefully we can find a way of doing Victorian costumes that’s true to the play, but also kind of modern and fashion-forward.”

Key roles of Gwendolyn Fairfax and Cecily Cardew and others are still to be cast.

Creative team incudes lighting design by Jon Clark, sound design by Nicola T. Chang, movement by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, and composition by D.J. Walde, who recently composed and arranged the music for Stranger Things – The First Shadow.

Exclusive Update On ‘Live Aid’  Musical ‘Just For One Day.’

Bob Geldof will be happy. The Live Aid musical Just For One Day, which played at the Old Vic in London, will be announcing soon that the show directed by Luke Shepard will transfer to Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre next January for a limited run.

John O’Farrell will tweak his book, and after Toronto, there’s a possibility of it trying out at a U.S. regional theater ahead of taking a shot at Broadway.

There’s also hope that it will return to London for a run in the summer of 2025. Hopefully, it’ll be on by the time of Live Aid’s 40th anniversary on July 13, 2025.

‘Live Aid’ Musical ‘Just For One day’. Photo by Baz Bamigboye/Deadline.
‘Live Aid’ Musical ‘Just For One day’. Photo by Baz Bamigboye/Deadline.

When I reached Jamie Wilson, who produced the show with Geldof, he said that the idea of America “is intriguing,” but it wasn’t up to just him.

Watch Out For ‘Two Strangers’.

There’s a lot of much-deserved buzz around new musical Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York), which played a sold-out run at the Kiln Theatre before transferring into the West End’s Criterion a few days ago.

It’s a two-hander starring Dujonna Gift, who until now I’d spotted in featured roles in Caroline, or Change and Motown the Musical here in London, and Sam Tutty, who won an Olivier award for the role of Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen.

The show, written by newcomers Jim Barne and Kit Buchan, was developed through the George Stiles and Anthony Drewe MTI Mentorship. An earlier version, when it was called The Season, was first produced by the Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton and the New Wolsey, Ipswich.

It’s a rom-com about Douglas (Tutty), who arrives in NYC to attend his estranged father’s wedding. Robin (Gift), the bride’s sister, meets him at JFK. What ensues is an utterly delightful and cheering love story. Some folk in seats in front of me were sobbing. Tears of joy, one would assume?

Sam Tutty and Dujonna Gift in ‘Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York). Shot by Baz Bamigboye/<em>Deadline.</em>
Sam Tutty and Dujonna Gift in ‘Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York). Shot by Baz Bamigboye/Deadline.

There’s obviously more to this tale, but no reveals here. The show’s just extended its run through August 31.

This column’s reliably informed that there’s “eagerness” for Two Strangers (Carry A Cake Across New York) to transfer to either an Off-Broadway house or a  U.S. regional theater to “perhaps, test the waters” for Broadway.

But do catch the London stars if you can. Both Gift and Tutty boast beautiful singing voices, plus they’ve got an easy way about them. They are so charming. I’m certainly paying another visit.

Stars Of Tomorrow.

Every once in a while, usually sitting on a theatre awards judging panel, I and others worry about where and when the next stage stars will emerge.

Well, worry not. I saw two,and a troupe of potentials, way out in the south London district of Peckham, which is home to the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, at a performance final year students gave of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday In the Park With George. The limited run ended Saturday.

I caught Noah Thallon as George and Amber Hoile as Dot. They’re leads in the ‘Light Cast.’ They were excellent, as was director Sally Ann Gritten’s production, with musical direction by Dan Jackson.

Mountview company of ‘Sunday in The Park With George’. Photo by Baz Bamigboye/<em>Deadline.</em>
Mountview company of ‘Sunday in The Park With George’. Photo by Baz Bamigboye/Deadline.

A very good friend saw Josh Rosewood and Roman Lewis-Malley perform those roles in the ‘Colour Cast’ and declared them just as captivating as Thallon and Hoile.

This pleases me greatly, but also saddens me somewhat.

I pray that when they graduate, there’s still some semblance of an entertainment industry out there for them to show off their thespian skills.

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.