EVANS, Dame Edith (1888-1976)
Plaque erected in 1997 by English Heritage at 109 Ebury Street, Belgravia, London, SW1W 9QU, City of Westminster
Theatre and Film
Dame EDITH EVANS 1888-1976 Actress lived here
Dame Edith Evans was a stage and screen actress, best remembered for playing Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest.
Evans lived with her parents at 109 Ebury Street from 1890 until about 1912. As the daughter of a minor public servant, she had a comfortable upbringing if not a privileged one: she recalled that ‘I always had a bedroom to myself’.
She made her amateur début in October 1910, playing Viola in Twelfth Night. Her professional stage début – in a production of a sixth-century Hindu classic, Sakuntala – came two years later, the same year she and her family left number 109.
The author George Moore was one of the first to spot the talent of Evans. From 1911 he lived nearby at 121 Ebury Street and, being somewhat smitten, secured the young actress an early engagement at the Royalty Theatre in Dean Street, Soho.
Next door to the Evans family, at number 111, lived the young Noël Coward, whose mother ran a boarding-house. Edith’s mother decided to follow suit, prompting the actress’s recollection that ‘the lodgers seemed happy enough but it was a hell of a hard job’.
Evans enjoyed an exceptionally long and successful career, appearing on stage and screen until the mid-1970s. As Lady Bracknell in the stage (1939) and film (1952) productions of The Importance of Being Earnest, she is most famous for her incredulous enunciation of two words: ‘a Handbag!’. It was an association that she came to abhor.