Letter : Wilde card in a play of racial harmony

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Sir: Your article on multi-racial casting in the theatre (19 September), prompted by Sonia Swaby playing Nancy in Oliver, quotes an Equity spokesman as saying: "I can't think of something like this happening in the West End before."

He cannot have seen the Talawa Theatre's all black cast playing The Importance of Being Earnest at the Bloomsbury Theatre in 1989. It was a deliciously fresh production of a play all too often weighed down by its own reputation, and it would doubtless have appealed to my grandfather Oscar Wilde, outsider and iconoclast that he was, to see his acute social comment updated.

He could not, however, have anticipated the double entendre in Gwendolyn and Cecily's frosty exchange: "When I see a spade I call it a spade." - "I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade," and the bonus joke in Cecily's question to Algy: "You dear romantic boy ... I hope your hair curls naturally," both of which nightly cracked up a predominantly black audience and occasionally the cast.

MERLIN HOLLAND

London, SW11

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