Following its sell-out run at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, To Hell in a Handbag: The Secret Lives of Canon Chasuble and Miss Prism, written and performed by Helen Norton and Jonathan White will embark on its first UK tour in November 2018.

Hailed by the Observer as a ’comic gem‘ and ’a hoot of an instant classic‘, the play’s action runs in parallel to Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and follows two of that play’s minor characters – a country rector and a governess – as their lives of Victorian propriety unravel in a tale of blackmail, embezzlement and false identity, a subversively funny new take on an Irish comedy classic.

The production received four- and five-star reviews in Edinburgh and subsequently toured all over Ireland. The Sunday Independent called it ‘Wickedly, side-splittingly funny, in a sophisticated, witty and elegant way… a joyous romp not to be missed, a worthy homage to its master and progenitor‘. The Mail on Sunday said ’To Hell in a Handbag is a delight – beautifully written and acted with exquisite comic timing.’

This tour will also bring the play back to the heart of its own origins. One of the venue stops on the way – Worthing – was the place where Wilde wrote The Importance of Being Earnest and indeed he incorporated it into his story. His leading character was  famously found in a handbag as a baby, and given the name Worthing because his benefactor had a ticket for that Sussex seaside resort in his pocket.

The tour is co-presented with house, touring to its venue network and generously supported by Culture Ireland as part of their GB18 initiative.

Venues and dates

GRAVESEND The Woodville – Tuesday 6 November

HEDGE END The Berry – Thursday 8 November

BRIDPORT Arts Centre – Friday 9 November

WORTHING Connaught Studio – Wednesday 14 November

CANTERBURY The Marlowe Kit – Thursday 15 November

NEW MILTON Forest Arts Centre – Friday 16 November

WALLINGFORD Corn Exchange – Saturday 17 November

FARNHAM Maltings (Great Hall) – Tuesday 20 November

HEMEL HEMPSTEAD Old Town Hall – Wednesday 21 November

COLCHESTER Lakeside – Thursday 22 November

DORCHESTER Arts Centre – Friday 23 November

ISLE OF WIGHT Quay Arts – Saturday 24 November

For more information contact, or the individual venues


Critical Acclaim for TO HELL IN A HANDBAG

“comic gem… the dialogue, delivered with impeccable timing and modulation, is light, wicked, artful. Altogether a hoot of an instant classic
– The Observer


“Helen Norton and Jonathan White, have pulled off a coup with their enchanting visit to the outer rim of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest… packs extraordinary amounts of plot and top-notch gags into a compact package”
★ ★ ★ ★  – The Irish Times


To Hell in a Handbag is a delightbeautifully written and acted with exquisite comic timing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★  – The Mail On Sunday


Wickedly, side-splittingly funny, in a sophisticated, witty and elegant way…a joyous romp not to be missed, a worthy homage to its master and progenitor”
– Sunday Independent


“Helen Norton plays a surprisingly devious Miss Prism while Jonathan White inhabits the bumbling vicar to perfection
– Sunday Times


“one of those unique events – an atmospheric piece which is a complete package


“Linguistically crafted as if written by Oscar Wilde himself… the performances are outstanding”
★ ★ ★ ★  – The Edinburgh Guide



Edinburgh Guide

To Hell in a Handbag, Assembly Rooms, Review

By Katie Stephen – Posted on 08 August 2017


Show details


Helen Norton & Jonathan White

Running time:



Helen Norton & Jonathan White (Writers) Conor Hanratty (Director), Marie Kearns (Set Design), Saileóg O’Halloran (Costume Design), Brendan Breslin (Sound Design), Sara Cretan (Producer)


Helen Norton (Miss Prism), Jonathan White (Rev. Canon Chausable)

Linguistically crafted as if written by Oscar Wilde himself, this insightful play delves into the unseen conversations of two seemingly minor characters from The Importance of Being Earnest.

In the interim of the action in the Worthing household on that fateful day when Ernest’s younger brother arrived from town to steal the heart of Cecily Cardew, Miss Prism (Helen Norton) and Rev. Chasuable (Jonathan White) had personal matters of the severest nature to resolve. The couples’ clandestine conclave in Chasuable’s chambers are a chance to see beyond the insinuated simplicity of their existence. If only Ernest Worthing knew – he could learn a thing or two.

Norton and White have taken an iconic script and found a play within its subtext – one just a juicy as the original. Lacing indiscretions through their pasts and presents, they have incorporated an impressive amount of references to the original plot without it feeling forced. Each indication that their lives are further intertwined feels almost as if they’ve plucked these moments from prior drafts of Wilde’s work.

In keeping with the exceptional standard of their script, the performances given are outstanding. Quick with a quip and dusted with the right amount of decorum, Norton’s hilariously outspoken Miss Prism is a delight to watch – as if Hattie Jacques playing the part of Maggie Smith. Subdued by this formidable women, Rev. Canon Chausable endearingly bumbles his way through the intricate speech, holding far more remorse then she, but not as much as the clergy would demand.

For any Wilde fan wandering the Fringe, this show is sure to sate your craving for societal wit and the triviality of minor felonies – but you’ll need to bring your own cucumber sandwiches!

3 – 27 Aug (Not 15 + 22) 12.25pm

We are delighted to announce that To Hell in a Handbag will be returning for a limited 5-week run at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre from 16 June to 22 July 2017.

Tickets are available now from Bewley’s Cafe Theatre or 086 878 4001.

Sunday Independent Review

As seen in Sunday Independent – September 18th 2016

Had Oscar Wilde lived to a ripe and contented age and taken to farce, he might have written To Hell in a Handbag. It’s wickedly, side-splittingly funny, in a sophisticated, witty and elegant way, so it really belongs in the mainstream on a main stage rather than in the quirky mayhem of a Fringe Festival. But it’s still an ornament to that Fringe.

The play offers an answer to what Miss Prism and Canon Chasuble got up to while Lady Bracknell was arranging a suitable future for Mr Jack Worthing and Mr Algernon Moncrieff in the former’s drawing room at the Manor House, Woolton. You don’t even have to be familiar with The Importance of Being Earnest to be enchanted, while if you’re already a fan, you’ll never see the dithering cleric and the palpitating governess in the same light again.

To Hell in a Handbag is written and played by Helen Norton and Jonathan White, and they have even managed to incorporate a newcomer’s guide to the back action of the “real” play, without labouring any points, while their mastery of prim Victorian dialogue is as brilliant as their comic timing.

The production is part of the Fishamble Show in a Bag initiative, and is at Bewley’s at Powerscourt, directed faultlessly by Conor Hanratty, and designed by Maree Kearns with costumes by Saileog O’Halloran. Lighting is by Colm Maher and sound by Brendan Breslin.

This is a joyous romp not to be missed, a worthy homage to its master and progenitor.

Emer O’Kelly

The Irish Times Review

As seen in The Irish Times

Bewley’s Café Theatre @ Powerscourt
It takes guts to attach a new piece of theatre to the funniest play ever written. But Helen Norton and Jonathan White, actors and writers, have pulled off a coup with their enchanting visit to the outer rim of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Remembering a famous Tom Stoppard piece, we might call it ‘Canon Chasuble and Miss Prism are Dead’.

Most of the action takes place on the same day as the last act of Wilde’s play. In between arrangements for adult Christenings, the fussy churchman and the romantically inclined governess reveal hidden lives, imposed on them by the pressures of Victorian economics. White’s Pooterish Chasuble, delightfully rendered in shades of ecclesiastic grey, seems to have merely stumbled into guilty deceit. In contrast, the impressively sharp Norton – whose fluting vowels suggest Edith Evans as much as they do Margaret Rutherford – exposes Miss Prism as a veritable maestro of deception.

Played out before an inevitable houseplant, To Hell in a Handbag packs extraordinary amounts of plot and top-notch gags into a compact package. Stay focussed for an excellent pun involving a town in Offaly.
Until Sept 24
Donald Clarke

Tiger Dublin Fringe

The Secret Lives of Canon Chasuble and Miss Prism

Bewley’s Café Theatre @ Powerscourt
12- 24 September

Written & Performed by
Helen Norton & Jonathan White

The 2016 Tiger Dublin Fringe will see the world premiere of To Hell in a Handbag, written and performed by Helen Norton and Jonathan White as part of this year’s Show in a Bag programme. The show will be performed in Bewley’s Café Theatre @ Powerscourt from 14 – 24 September with preview 12 September. Tickets priced €13 (€10 preview) are available now from

The play is set during and around the action of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and focuses on two of that play’s minor characters, Miss Prism and Canon Chasuble. A governess and a country rector, models of Victorian propriety in public … but in private? A tale of blackmail, false identity… and money, it will be a subversively funny new take on an Irish theatrical classic.

Helen Norton and Jonathan White are Dublin-based stage and screen actors with over 60 years professional experience between them. Responsible for increasing the age demographic of Fringe participants by about 150%, they have come together to write their first play, thanks to Show in a Bag, an artist development initiative of Tiger Dublin Fringe, Fishamble: The New Play Company and Irish Theatre Institute to resource theatre makers and actors

Anyone who lives within their means suffers from lack of imagination” – Oscar Wilde


Venue: Bewley’s Café Theatre @ Powerscourt

Date: September 12, 13:00 (Preview); September 14, 13:00; September 15, 18:00; September 16, 20:00; September 18, 20:00; September 19, 18:00; September 22, 13:00; September 24, 18:00

Tickets: €13 (€10 preview) available from

For more information:

Mission PR & Communications |
01 675 0695 | 086 250 3751 | 087 902 0859

Notes for Editors


Helen Norton

Helen has just finished playing Grumio in The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe. Other theatre includes Oedipus, Comedy of Errors, Men to the Right, Women to the Left and Tarry Flynn (Abbey) As You Like It (Gate and Druid) Wallflowering (Tall Tales) Misery and The Sunshine Boys (Civic Theatre) Slattery’s Sago Saga (Performance Corporation) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Corn Exchange) A Midsummer Nights Dream (Barabbas) Talking to Terrorists (Calypso) The Flamboyant Bird (Fringe Festival) Dancing at Lughnasa (Northcott Theatre, Exeter) Roman Fever and Ruby Tuesday (Bewley’s Cafe Theatre) Wired to the Moon (Fishamble) and Red Noses, Fen, Don Juan and West (Pigsback).

TV and Film includes Penny Dreadful, The Borgias, Roy, Cracks, Dorothy, Paths to Freedom, Custer’s Last Stand Up, Durango, A Love Divided, Angela’s Ashes, Maigret, The Old Curiosity Shop, Dillusc, Crisis Eile and Fair City.

Helen has worked extensively on radio and has written and directed three short plays for children based on paintings in The National Gallery of Ireland.

Jonathan White

Jonathan was born in Dublin, grew up in New York and began his acting career while still a student at Trinity College, Dublin. His theatre work includes No Escape, The Comedy of Errors, Ladybag, Calvary, The Resurrection, The Quare Fellow and Imeachtaí na Saoirse (Abbey) The Life of Galileo, I Can’t Get Started, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Our Country’s Good, Serious Money, No End of Blame and Victory (Rough Magic) Richard II, Amadeus and Mutabilitie (Ouroboros/Theatreworks) Are You There, Garth? It’s Me, Margaret (Gaiety) Anglo: The Musical (BGET & Olympia) Comedians (Bickerstaffe) Massive Damages (Passion Machine) and The Merchant of Venice, Othello, King Lear, Hamlet and As You Like It (Second Age). Films include Love Rosie, Noble, Happy Ever Afters, Cracks, Veronica Guerin and When Brendan Met Trudy. Television credits include Ripper Street, Titanic: Blood & Steel, Betrayal of Trust, Honeymoon for One, The Santa Incident, Wild Decembers, Whistleblower, The Tudors, On Home Ground, The Ambassador, Nighthawks, A Song For Europe and Father Ted. Radio includes Scrap Saturday and The Monica Moody Show as well as over 100 plays and series.