The Importance of Being Earnest is 120 years old and yet remains one of the most popular stage plays of all time.

It’s long been a favourite of amateur companies who enjoy Oscar Wilde’s witticisms and the fact that it is one of his ‘lighter’ works, described by the author himself as ‘A Trivial Comedy for Serious People’.

Huddersfield Thespians have performed the play three times before in their 95-years of amateur productions and will be tackling it once again next week at the Lawrence Batley Theatre.

Director Derek Smith, who is a relatively new face at the Thespians but has worked in the theatre for many years, says: “Wilde is all about the words and the delivery of the lines. There’s a lot of comic timing in the Importance of Being Earnest, it’s light and it’s fun. His one-liners and digs at the society of the times are still funny today.”

There are a number of stage versions of the play but Derek says the Thespians have chosen the most-performed three-act version and while he is keeping it in period style he promises “something slightly different.”

In order to give the play a genuine period feel the female actors will be costumed with back-straightening corsets and the props will encourage correct posture. As Derek explained: “The corsets make a huge difference to the way the actors stand and sit down. With a period play you have got to make sure as an actor that you are in that period. The men will not be round-shouldered either; we have some Victorian chairs that you can’t slouch in.”

Derek, who lived in London, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire before moving to West Yorkshire a decade ago, is directing his third play for the Thespians – last year he directed Quartet – but has also appeared in productions. He played Scrooge in the society’s festive show, A Christmas Carol, and is also a member of Halifax Thespians.

With a lifetime of experience in the amateur theatre behind him, Derek says he was delighted to discover that this part of Yorkshire had such a vibrant theatrical life.

Huddersfield Thespians in rehearsal for The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest is providing him with some artistic challenges as it will be performed in the Syngenta Cellar of the LBT, a space that does not allow for elaborate sets. Instead, Derek says wardrobe and props will be of paramount importance – and these have been carefully sourced.

He has chosen a youthful cast for the production, with the two romantic pairings played by actors in their early to mid twenties (Joe Geddes as Jack, Amy Harrop as Cecily, James Sharpe as Algernon, and Poppy Stahelin as Gwendolen) and the role of Lady Bracknell (Prue Griffiths), which is usually given to an actress in her 60s or 70s, has a younger persona.

The play also features Peter Bowron as Merriman; Christine Davis as Miss Prism; Alun Jones as Lane; and Mick McParland as the Rev Canon Chausble.

The production can be seen from March 10 to 14 from 7.15pm (Saturday matinee at 2pm). Tickets are £12 from or 01484 430528.

Just announced – the new season of plays by Huddersfield Thespians, beginning in October 2015. There’s plenty to look forward to, with The Thrill of Love, the true story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain; followed by April in Paris, a John Godber comedy; A Taste of Honey, the taboo-breaking play of the 1950s; and The 39 Steps, based on the John Buchan novel and spoof of the Alfred Hitchcock film.