After its critically-acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe run in 2022 the hugely popular The Importance of Being… Earnest? is embarking on a UK tour, and will play Northcott Theatre, Exeter, on Thursday, March 14, to Saturday, March 16.

In a riotous twist on a much-loved classic the show opens to looming disaster; the actor playing Ernest in Oscar Wilde’s famed farce fails to arrive on cue. In a monumental effort to “save the show”, a real audience member is quickly cast in the lead role.

But this impetuous recasting sets off a hilarious chain of events that, one-by-one, renders the rest of the cast unable to continue their performances.

As more audience members are encouraged to step into the spotlight, led backstage for costume and make-up, impromptu auditions, the painting of portraits, the chanting of mantras; doing whatever’s needed to help the show go on, an absurd controlled madness ensues – until it feels as if there are almost as many audience members in the cast as there are in the ... audience.

This is a comedic masterpiece of meticulous logistics, meritoriously involved audiences, masterful stage management and celebrity cameos. The Importance of Being... Earnest? is an exciting and hilarious experience both to watch and be part of as the innovative format creates an unexpected new experience every night.

It’s a show for anyone who has enjoyed the high-jinx of The Play That Goes Wrong, Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare and Austentatious.

Developed alongside the company’s flagship open-rehearsal initiative, where audiences are invited into the rehearsal room to participate in the creative process, the show is written by Josh King, Simon Paris and Say It Again, Sorry?, and is directed by Simon Paris.

Paris told us: “We often speak to audience members after the show and a recurring theme is that the people who volunteer are often the ones who have sworn to never get onstage, but in the heat of the moment they take a leap of faith, put their hand up, perform in the show and have a great time.

The main take-away is that just a few seconds of being brave and taking a chance can lead you to the most magical adventures and make amazing memories.”

The company says its vision is for the public to “recover ownership over their own creative power and contribute to the future of theatre as active participants, collaborators, and decision-makers”.

Its aim is to “connect people to their inner artist and inspire creative expression in everybody”.