I love the wit of Oscar Wilde and have been an admirer of his plays for a good many years.
As part of a year’s celebration of his works, the Classic Spring Theatre Company are preforming four Oscar Wilde plays that “shocked and redefied British theatre” at the Vaudeville theatre, London.
As we were unable to obtain tickets for Lady Windermere’s fan during our last trip to London; we were pleased when we had the opportunity to see a live broadcast of this production at our local Showcase Cinema. This was a new experience for us and we found it a pleasant one. The audience in the cinema were responsive to the production, just as they would be in the theatre. There was also an interval, no gin and tonic, but the ice cream was delicious.
The first of Oscar Wilde’s social comedies, Lady Windermere’s fan opened in 1882 to indifferent reviews. Containing the famous lines “we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”, the play shows Wilde’s sympathy with women, and questions why society at that time was unequal. A married man was expected to have extramarital affairs whilst a woman would be cast out of society if she followed suit.
Lady Windermere has been happily married for two years when she is told that her husband is having an affair with the scandalous Mrs Erlynne. The actual truth is complex, and Lord Windermere is trying to protect his wife from it.
Paul Willis design reflects the fan that is so symbolic in the story, five women’s faces each hidden behind a fan, bearing a message, appear on the safety curtain. In the drawing room of the Windermere’s residence, the main setting for the play, a large fan shaped window scans the back of the stage, making the fan the focal point throughout the production.
Directed by Kathy Burke, this production is peppered with humorous moments. I particularly found the butler (Parker) answering “yes my lady”, each time he was spoken to by lady Windermere, very amusing. (I loved the Thunderbirds reference)
Samantha Spiro gives a very strong performance as Mrs Erlynne, who as the plot unfolds, evolves as a woman of scandal to someone who pays the ultimate sacrifice to protect the person she loves.
Jennifer Saunders is superb as Lady Berwick. Her comedic timing and delivery of Wilde’s classic lines combine perfectly resulting in theatre magic.
The highlight of the production for me was a musical interlude before the last act performed by Saunders and members of the ensemble. Written by Kathy Burke, “Keep your hands off”, was a delightful rendition of a raucous musical hall style song which was received with great enthusiasm by the audience.
As the cast took their bow, Kathy Burke appeared from the back of the stage, playfully pushing members of the cast out of the way to stand with them as they took their final curtain call.
In my opinion, the additional comedic moments do not take anything away from the classic story. The wit and poetry of Wilde shines through resulting in a thoroughly enjoyable production.
Lady Windermere’s fan runs at the Vaudeville theatre until the 7th April.
The next play in the Oscar Wilde Season, An Ideal Husband, is being broadcast live to the Showcase Cinema on the 5th June, and I for one can’t wait.
Lady Windermere’s Fan is also featured on the Theatretastic Podcast
Theatretastic rating 4/5:
We say: “The wit and poetry of Wilde combined with excellent comedic timing makes this a thoroughly enjoyable production!”