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Most serious Wilde seems most dated

PUBLISHED: 15:50 28 October 2009 | UPDATED: 17:14 16 August 2010

LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN by Wilde; 

Sarah Tortell (as Mrs Erlynne); 

John Turnbull (as Lord Augustus Lorton); 

at Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre, Crayford, UK; 

9 October 2009; 

Credit: Robert Piwko / ArenaPAL; 

www.arenapal.com

LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN by Wilde; Sarah Tortell (as Mrs Erlynne); John Turnbull (as Lord Augustus Lorton); at Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre, Crayford, UK; 9 October 2009; Credit: Robert Piwko / ArenaPAL; www.arenapal.com

Robert Piwko

OSCAR Wilde s 1892 play Lady Windermere s Fan - subtitled A Play About a Good Woman - was the subject of a recent revival at Crayford s Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre, writes Mark Campbell. Broadly speaking a comedy of manners, this four-act play sees the

OSCAR Wilde's 1892 play Lady Windermere's Fan - subtitled 'A Play About a Good Woman' - was the subject of a recent revival at Crayford's Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre, writes Mark Campbell.

Broadly speaking a comedy of manners, this four-act play sees the young and rather naive Lady Windermere (Justine Greene) suspecting her husband Lord Windermere (Lee Devlin) of having an affair with the mysterious woman-in-red Mrs Erlynne (Sarah Tortell).

Rather than covering up his 'indiscretion', the husband blithely invites Mrs Erlynne to his wife's birthday ball.

Outraged, Lady Windermere repairs to the private rooms of her friend Lord Darlington (Ross Holland), a man who has only just professed his great love for her.

Mrs Erlynne reveals to the audience that she is in fact Lady Windermere's unmarried mother - and therefore an outcast in moralistic Victorian England.

But just when it looks as if Lady W will be caught in a compromising position in Lord Darlington's rooms - this is where the titular fan comes into its own - her mother steps out of the shadows and sacrifices her own reputation yet again so that her daughter can escape.

Although containing many famous Wildean epigrams, such as "scandal is gossip made tedious by morality" or "I can resist everything except temptation", the scathing wit of Lady Windermere's Fan is somewhat undercut by a thick strain of sentiment that threatens to turn the final act into something of a Victorian soap opera.

In this sense it is perhaps the most serious of Wilde's plays, and therefore the one that feels the most dated.

But thankfully Sarah Tortell's portrayal of the wronged Mrs Erlynne was so full of conviction that any sense of mawkishness was quickly dispelled.

The actress embraced every nuance of Wilde's script, delivering an intelligent, insightful performance of delicately repressed emotion.

The rest of the cast, although good, didn't come close to matching her.

Lee Devlin perhaps needed to take a leaf out of Ross Holland's book and relax into his character more, while Justine Greene appeared a little stiff at times, and a little too quiet, in this her first major role.

Roger Gollop was an amusingly droll Mr Dumby, John Turnball a suitably effete Lord Augustus and Sue Higginson a shrill Duchess of Berwick, her lines projected as if through a foghorn.

The play was directed and designed by Alan Goodwin, with sumptuous costumes courtesy of Liz Naisbitt and Sally O'Callaghan.

The next play at the Geoffrey Whitworth Theatre is Journey's End by R C Sheriff from 7-14 November. Tickets: 01322 526390.

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