An uptight reverend and a loose-living sister will take centre stage as the focal characters of a new production of Victorian comedy Dandy Dick, when it opens at Richmond Theatre this month.

The play, written by Arthur Wing Pinero, was composed in 1893 a full two years before Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and even now, in the newly reproduced Theatre Royal Brighton production, there are echoes of the social tensions that were present at the time of both plays creation.

Nicholas Le Provost, the star role of the uptight Right Reverend Augustin Jedd, who has a puritanical distaste for gambling until being led astray, said rehearsing for the play had made him realise how enlightened we are today.

He said: “It’s difficult to imagine what it was like when doors were more closed, how difficult it was to go out on a limb and poke fun at the church. We have to put on a pair of glasses to view the Victorian era.”

In Dandy Dick, Le Provost’s character ends up fighting his conscious to gamble all his savings on his wild-child sister Georgiana’s racehorse, so he can raise money for a new church steeple and causes chaos and comedy along the way.

Le Provost added: “It [the Victorian era] was an incredibly close, human, animal existence, and people like the Dean did everything they could to separate themselves from that. Pinero exposes the hypocrisy of the church. He turns society on its head.”

Dandy Dick, Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond, July 10 to July 14, evenings and matinees, tickets from £15, or 0844 8717651.