Writer: Oscar Wilde
Director: Linnie Reedman
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty
Conveniently for all concerned, this feels like a terribly modern play. Clearly this Oscar Wilde fellow had some talent, creating a piece of work that provides as incisive a look at contemporary society today as it did over 120 years ago when it was first performed. Adultery and jealousy are always going to be universal, that’s an unfortunate given, but his skewering of the Beau Monde, of “Society”, seems to resonate clearly in these times of heightened sensitivity to wealth (if not class) as a social differentiator. Wilde had Punch and Fun magazines to play off while biting the hands that fed him, today we have Hello and other red letter pictorials.
Set among those who spend their lives in other people’s drawing rooms and who are never at home to the wrong sort of callers, Lady Windermere’s Fan satisfies an audience’s taste for gossip, voyeurism and high drama. The young Lady Windermere is about to come of age, a big birthday, and has been given a fan by her husband. She’s beautiful, and has caught the eye of Lord Darlington though she is devoted to her husband; they “married for love” she pleadingly explains. However, the talk about town is that Lord Windermere has taken a lover, the unknowable Mrs Erlynne, the rumours of which has clearly driven a wedge between the loving couple leaving Lady Windermere fighting to avoid being trapped in an adulterous marriage.
With the action transposed to the 1930’s era from the original Victorian, the sense of timelessness of the story is heightened. It’s not quite a new world. Women wear trousers and there’s a great soundtrack (selected in this case by Joe Evans) but a wife is still advised against objecting to a cheating husband as it would risk censure from high-society. We do see here, however, a woman who, if not exactly unafraid, does make the decision to leave her husband for someone who loves her, risking everything on the chance. There’s a lot of debate to be had over whether this is a weak woman or a strong one, whether she leaves of choice or desperation. In this production, she seems to be a strong willed woman without an anchor. Someone who knows what she wants, but is tossed about on the winds created by the huffing and blowing of the men in her life. Ellie Nunn’s Lady Windermere is a great portrayal, an intriguing portrait of the woman.
The rest of the cast are no slouches either. As Lord Augustus Graham Hoadly is flat out brilliant. Once heard, you’ll wonder how anyone else thinks they can get away with exclaiming on stage “egad” and “by jove”. As Lord Windermere Steven Clarke give us an engaging performance as a conflicted man, one deeply bound to two women with diametrically opposed demands.
The taper that sets these glowing performances alight is the wit, imagination and sharp observation of Oscar Wilde. It’s the play that gives us some of the most quoted lines of his like the “gutter looking at the stars” one and “I can resist anything except temptation.” It gives us much more besides, and Linnie Reedman and Ruby in the Dust have created an interpretation that brings his finer talents out in a polished, vibrant way. Certainly not a trivial production.
Runs until the 23rd of August|Photo: Roy Tan