British actress Cherie Lunghi is currently appearing in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End. In one of her biographical blurbs, Cherie was described as a ‘leading ingénue’ at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the late 70s. An ingénue is a stock character, typically beautiful, gentle, sweet, virginal and often naive – the usual foil to a vamp or a femme fatale. Her roles at the RSC included Perdita, Cordelia and Viola.
She then left to play Guinevere (probably more of a vamp) in John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981) and pursue a film and TV career.
At the Pinter she plays the conventional Victorian woman, Gwendolen Fairfax – Lady Bracknell’s sophisticated, intellectual, cosmopolitan and utterly pretentious daughter who is in love with Wilde’s protagonist, Jack, whom she knows as Earnest. It’s a name she is fixated upon and will not marry a man without that moniker that “inspires absolute confidence”. Ingénue or vamp? Or maybe a mixture of both. Either way, in real life she was most fun to meet and chatted with a handful of us at the stage door before Saturday’s matinée. I told her that sketching was one of my vices, and she said “it’s a vice you’re good at”.