Wilde's beautifully dressed adventure
PUBLISHED: 13:05 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 17:18 16 August 2010
A BRIGHTLY painted, cardboard cut-out type proscenium arch is mounted centre stage at the Churchill, writes Edward Martyn. Naked
A BRIGHTLY painted, cardboard cut-out type proscenium arch is mounted centre stage at the Churchill, writes Edward Martyn.
Naked cherubs are depicted cavorting on the curtain which hides the acting area, and a semi-circle of footlights (Lit by a liveried footman) completes the Victorian theatre setting.
A golden easel bears cards which announce the title of each scene and a music stand and decorated piano provide an onstage area where demure violinist Anna McNicholas and pianist Matthew Wycliffe, dressed in their Victorian finery hold sway.
Lee Mead is a dapper Lord Arthur, preparing to tie the knot with the lovely Miss Sybil Merton (Loisa Clein). They are visiting the redoubtable Lady Windermere (Kate O'Mara) a socialite of the old school, in that she knows everyone who is anyone and thinks she knows everything there is to know about how life should be conducted.
David Ross as the bumbling Dean of Chichester blunders and flaps his way round the room until being gently removed so that Lady Windermere can foist her latest 'Find' on to the young couple and test their suitability for married life. This consists of a very un-prepossesing clairvoyant named Podgers (A heavily disguised Gary Wilmot).
He is given the job of reading Lord Arthur's palm to uncover any past misdemeanors or possible future disasters that would render him 'unsuitable'.
This is possibly the worst idea that Lady Windermere has had in a long time for, spurred on by His rising popularity and the lure of easy money Podgers 'foresees' a dreadful crime in the future for Lord Arthur and predicts that he will in fact murder someone in cold blood.
Luckily, this is imparted in confidence to the bewildered Arthur, who now is terrified of proceeding with the marriage in case it might be his beloved Sybil who will become his future victim.
Arthur resolves to put off the marriage until he can murder someone conveniently situated, so that he can then proceed to wedlock with a clear conscience. This ridiculous situation is exploited to the maximum by Oscar Wilde in the first instance and everyone else on stage, and the director (Christopher Luscombe) in this beautifully costumed and imagined production.
Lee Mead is a little lightweight for Lord Arthur in this two hour play and Kate O'Mara is sometimes a trifle indistinct as Lady windermere, but the enthusiasm with which Darren Nesbitt as the explosive-minded Herr Winckelkopf and David Ross as the Dean approach this Victorian curiosity does the production proud.
Alexander McPherson has designed a wonderful set which shows off the cast and the musicians perfectly. What is startling about the play is that two of the themes are as fresh as today's papers; Religious or politically motivated bombers causing havoc and the popularity of poisoning to get rid of unwanted relatives. The other comment that drew a knowing laugh was when the bomber complained that the postal service was so slow his devices exploded before reaching their intended destination. I think we've all suffered vaguely similar problems lately.