Burke broadly explores Wilde’s acute understanding of the restrictions set on women in the time, and the insistence that puritanical beliefs of good and bad never tell the whole story.
For things aren’t always what they seem. Samantha Spiro is alluring and shrewd as the mysterious Mrs Erlynne, but shifts beautifully to become surprisingly sincere as she makes her great sacrifice. Grace Molony makes an endearing Lady Windermere, and Kevin Bishop is jocular as Lord Darlington, but not very much of a threat.
But it is Jennifer Saunders as the Duchess of Berwick that gets the biggest laughs, and is incessantly deadpan whenever onstage. Saunders is brilliantly out of touch as she boasts about her chatterbox of a daughter who is never allowed to get a word in. Burke seems to add Saunders in whenever she can, giving her a lively mid-act front-of-the-curtain diddy that’s a crowd pleaser but barely relevant to the rest of the play.
Perhaps Saunders becomes too much of a crutch, with the set design and costumes looking almost like an afterthought. Lord Windermere’s house is reduced to a sparse white room dotted with a few pieces of instrumental furniture, and a main fan-like window feature upstage.
Nevertheless, fans of Saunders won’t mind, and the performances keep this Lady Windermere’s Fan fresh. While there’s nothing particularly surprising or ingenious about Burke’s production, the play remains a clever critique of late 19th century high society peppered with Wildean wit.
|What||Lady Windermere’s Fan, Vaudeville Theatre review|
|Where||Vaudeville Theatre, 404 Strand, London, WC2R 0NH | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
12 Jan 18 – 07 Apr 18, 19:30
|Price||£22 - £86|
|Website||Click here to book now|