Lady Windermere’s Fan
By Oscar Wilde
Royal Exchange Theatre, 21 May 2012
There are a lot of much quoted lines in Wilde’s play, that much is certain, the difficulty lies in making them sound fresh and newly minted.
This production in the main achieved this, due to the excellence of the performances. Of these, my pick would be: Lysette Anthony as Mrs. Erlynne, a compassionate femme fatale; Oliver Gomm as Cecil Graham, an impish poseur, witty but light as soufflé; Cameron Stewart as Lord Lorton, not as dull a dullard as he makes out, for he knows on what side his bread is buttered and jammed.
Taking the play in the round, it is an astute study of society’s conventions, which is to say hypocrisy. Finding human goodness isn’t an easy matter under normal conditions, but a crisis or a scandal (as here) will reveal it soon enough.
History and heritage may present Oscar Wilde as an effete dandy, much given to precious outpourings, and maybe he would have settled for that. The play here reveals a social observer with a cold, cold eye and a glint of ice in his heart. He saw all, missed nothing.
Lady Windermere’s Fan is at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 23 June, further details can be found here.