Lady Windermere’s Fan review

Theatre, Comedy
3 out of 5 stars
3 out of 5 stars
(3user reviews)
 (© Marc Brenner)
1/10
© Marc Brenner Jennifer Saunders as Duchess of Berwick and Grace Molony as Lady Windermere
 (© Marc Brenner)
2/10
© Marc Brenner Jennifer Saunders as Duchess of Berwick + company
 (© Marc Brenner)
3/10
© Marc Brenner Grace Molony as Lady Windermere
 (© Marc Brenner)
4/10
© Marc Brenner Grace Molony as Lady Windermere and Joshua James as Lord Windermere
 (© Marc Brenner)
5/10
© Marc Brenner Grace Molony as Lady Windermere and Samantha Spiro as Mrs Erlynne
 (© Marc Brenner)
6/10
© Marc Brenner Jennifer Saunders as Duchess of Berwick and Grace Molony as Lady Windermere
 (© Marc Brenner)
7/10
© Marc Brenner Joseph Marcell as Lord Lorton and Grace Molony as Lady Windermere
 (© Marc Brenner)
8/10
© Marc Brenner Joseph Marcell as Lord Lorton and Samantha Spiro as Mrs Erlynne
 (© Marc Brenner)
9/10
© Marc Brenner Kevin Bishop as Lord Darlington
 (© Marc Brenner)
10/10
© Marc Brenner Kevin Bishop as Lord Darlington and Grace Molony as Lady Windermere

Kathy Burke directs Oscar Wilde’s artful society comedy

Last time Jennifer Saunders was involved in a West End theatre show, she was all but run out of town by a pitchfork-wielding mob, genuinely incensed at her diabolical Spice Girls musical ‘Viva Forever!’ 

She’s back on rather different terms in 2018, and if co-starring in Oscar Wilde’s timeless 1892 comedy ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ clearly constitutes the harvesting of low-hanging fruit for the beloved comedy actor, then that’s fine – she absolutely owns the stage.

Gossipy old bat the Duchess of Berwick probably isn’t even in Wilde’s top three gossipy old bats, but Saunders is perfect in the role. Sewing chaos with that ironic detachment that she brings to bear on even Eddy’s most fraught moments, she nails Wilde’s immaculately sculpted quips, somehow both in the moment and standing wryly outside.

This revival, part of Dominic Dromgoole’s year-long effort to stage all of Wilde’s plays, is directed by another comedy icon, Kathy Burke, who keeps things light and fast-paced – Wilde at his most frothily superficial.

She’s assembled a fine cast, who generally hold their own against the totemic Saunders. Grace Molony is funny, winsome, and a little tragic as the good-hearted Lady Windermere, led by the Duchess’s gossip into thinking her husband Lord Windermere (a hangdog Joshua James) is having an affair with the reliably effervescent Samantha Spiro’s Mrs Erlynne. Kevin Bishop puts in an entertainingly unselfconscious turn as Lady Windermere’s handsy would-be paramour Lord Darlington.

It is entertaining, but my nagging theory about Wilde has always been that he’s too influential for his own good – the twentieth-century sitcom is entirely indebted to him and it means that his slick, witty drawing-room comedies rarely feel terribly fresh unless really taken in hand.

Burke stacks her show with enough talent to keep things bubbling over, and wrings a bit of contemporary edge out of Wilde’s clearly dim view of self-important toffs with little consideration for women. But ultimately the director doesn’t find a huge amount of emotional resonance. Saunders is the USP and also the wildcard in what is otherwise a gently amusing night that arcs to its happy ending with autopilot predictability.

Average User Rating

2.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Tastemaker

Oscar Wilde’s plays do sound dated, but watching them it’s always fun (in the lightest way). Not different in this play. It is funny that the most of the public are older people, I wonder why... As the Time Out pointed out, it really is a sitcom, with a joke/a minute (and many on them pretty good); it should work for younger people too! Jennifer Saunders is perfect as the gossipy Duchess who prompts Lady Windermere to doubt her husband (and put the story in motion). Even her bad singing work wonders in the between-acts ‘sketch’. All the other actors are really good too, creating fasted paced, full of one-liners, dialogues. Kevin Bishop as Lord Darlington gets most of the best ‘side comments’, so typical to Wilde, and he makes good use of them, adding some physical comedy. 


OMG... left at the interval as it was SO bad. I’m a theatre goer and have seen most shows in the West End and I have never left a show half way through. Maybe it was too highbrow for me and maybe I’m too young (48) for this show as it seemed you needed to be grey haired to see and appreciate this show. I LOVE Jennifer Saunders to bits but this was not the show fior me. Luckily we had half price tickets which is about right as we left half way through. Don’t waster your time or your money on this show.

tastemaker

I was a bit sceptical going to see this Victorian melodrama and at the same time I was curious because it was Oscar Wilde. It does take time to get into it so I wasn’t drawn into straight from the start but by the time of the interval, I was surprised how much I started enjoying it. This is what a good actors’ performance all about. They managed to relay theircharacters’ stories very well. 2 main female actresses were excellent – Jennifer Saunders as Duchess and Grace Molloy as Lady Windermer.