Home / Drama / Lady Windermere’s Fan – Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Lady Windermere’s Fan – Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

Writer: Oscar Wilde

Director: Greg Hersov

Reviewer: Iain Sykes

[rating:3.5]

 

Lady Windermere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde’s study of misunderstanding and morality in Victorian society, is a play containing some of his most well known one liners and brilliant wit. A play that demands strong performances to bring out all its intricacies. Does this production, directed by Greg Hersov succeed in that? In places, yes.

The tale of Lady Windermere, two years married to the husband she assumes to be faithful, only to have her scandal free life shattered by the news of his alleged dalliance with a society outcast, is very much of its time. Lady Windermere is the society lady who sees her world turned upside down on the day of her coming of age ball. At first a vulnerable girl, she matures into a strong lady in a classy performance by Laura Rees. The outstanding performance of the evening comes from Lysette Anthony as Mrs Erlynne, the lady cast out of polite society over her scandalous past and now the subject of much tongue wagging among the upper classes. In a powerful, commanding and moving performance, it’s heartbreaking to see her desperation and longing to reveal her deep secret which the whole of the play revolves around. The scenes of misunderstanding between her and Rees provide a tension that has the whole audience on tenterhooks.

Among the other cast members, Bernice Stegers makes the most of a great rôle as the domineering Duchess of Berwick, the manipulative orchestrator of society gossip and scandal, breaking the news of Lord Windermere’s supposed indiscretions. Of the male cast members, Samuel Collings is an intensely flirtatious playboy as Lord Darlington and Cameron Stewart, a likeable Lord Augustus. Yet, in the main, the male characters do seem rather tame. The scene of upper class ribaldry where Lady Windermere’s fan is discovered where it shouldn’t be, did feel a little forced.

Ashley Martin-Davis’s minimal, uncluttered set ensures that only the most functional items make it to the stage. Just a few items of furniture are used to encourage the audience to believe that we are in the halls of high society. We have a chair, table, desk and chaise longue, all of which are used extensively. It certainly doesn’t feel as though we’re attending a society coming of age party. Instead it’s left to the costumes to transport the audience to 1892. The ladies fare particularly well in this aspect of the production with a fine selection of gowns.

This is a good production of Lady Windermere’s Fan. A mixed bag of some great and some lightweight performances on a disappointingly bare set prevent it from being anything more. That said, Wilde’s wit does still shine through well and this is what carries the play forward.

Runs until 23rd June

 

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