LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN
by Oscar Wilde
King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN to 23 August 2014
Tues – Sat 7pm Mat Sun 3pm
Runs 2 hr 15 mins One interval
TICKETS: 0207 226 478 0160
Review: William Russell, 08 08 14
Oscar may well be wild about this.
Director Linnie Reeedman’s big idea in this production of Wilde’s 1892 play about a wife tempted and an adventuress who turns out to have a heart of gold is to set it in the 1930s. Mrs Erlynne, the adventuress, who saves her daughter, Lady Windermere, from making the big mistake she did is seen as a kind of Mrs Simpson. The trouble is, some songs by Noel, Cole, Ivor and Irving as incidental music apart, the thirties world is never conjured up – the women’s clothes are ghastly, more forties than thirties, while the men all wear dinner suits so it could as easily be 1892 as 1935.
But the play, packed with splendid lines – it is, like Hamlet, one of those plays that sounds like a dictionary of quotations at times – survives.
Nothing can get over the fact, however, that the Windermeres are pains in the neck, British theatre’s least attractive couple. Lord Windermere is a tedious prig, Lady Windermere a prudish nitwit who decides to leave her husband for her admirer, Lord Darlington, after discovering her husband is paying large sums of money to Mrs Erlynne who is trying to enter polite society. He is doing it because Mrs Erlynne, actually his mother in law, abandoned her child as a baby for a lover and thus became a scarlet woman and is blackmailing him.
Graham Hoadley as dim Lord Augustus, the man Mrs Erlynne has set her sights upon, and Jo Ashe as a gossipy Duchess, a pair of old pros to their fingertips, are a delight. Hoadley’s rendering of And Her Mother Came Too is particularly choice if pointless. Ellie Nunn, in a series of unflattering gowns, does what she can with Lady Windermere, Ruth Redman, who gets slightly better dresses, is a svelte Mrs Erlynne and Nathan Lubbock-Smiths tinkles the ivories with style as an elegant Cecil Graham. Reedman has form when it comes to Wilde. She directed the particularly awful Portrait of Dorian Gray recently at the Riverside.
Lady Windermere: Ellie Nunn
Lord Augustus: Graham Hoadley
The Duchess: Jo Ashe
Cecil Graham: Nathan Lubbock-Smith
Lord Darlington: Ruari Cannon
Mrs Erlynne: Ruth Redman
Lord Windermere: Steven Clarke
Director: Linnie Reedman
Musical arranger and sound designer: Joe Evans
Set and costume designer: Belle Mundy
Lighting Designer: Andrew May