Following on from the very dated A Woman of No Importance, the second instalment in the Vaudeville Theatre’s Oscar Wilde season sees Kathy Burke take the reigns as she directs an all-star cast for Lady Windermere’s Fan.
But just like its predecessor, despite some great performances, it all just feels a bit too old hat.
We are invited into the frothy, frivolous world of the 1890s upper classes, where a woman’s reputation is her only valuable asset and the patriarchy are determined to keep the lady folk at the bottom of the pecking order at all costs.
Grace Malony plays Lady Windemere, who whilst planning her own birthday party is perplexed to learn that her husband has been linked with a wanton woman. Malony’s portrayal has a nice sense of vulnerability but there is little to latch on and relate to for modern audiences beneath all of the fussiness. Her relationship with her estranged mother, Samantha Spiro (who is majestic as the much talked about Mrs Erlynne) has moments of grit. But the simpering men in the scenes, who collectively lack any real charisma, diffuse much of the tension.
Comedic interludes are provided by Jennifer Saunders (back on the London stage for the first time in 25 years) who is hilarious as the Duchess of Berwick and fans of Abfab will see a multitude of Edina-like quips and expressions. And I must also cast positive comment on the costumes, which are absolutely exquisite, particularly the dresses worn by Spiro.
All in all, it’s a bit of fun if you’re a fan of Jennifer Saunders, but otherwise it feels just too frothy and old fashioned for contemporary audiences.
Reviewed by Nicky Sweetland
Photo: Marc Brenner