Sudbury Dramatic Society’s production of Lady Windermere’s Fan opened to an almost-packed auditorium at The Quay Theatre on Tuesday night and was both humorous and moving.
Satirising the morals of Victorian high society, the play is a roller-coaster ride of human emotions, intrigue, jealousy and angst.
But it has more ups and downs and twists and turns than any roller coaster I’ve been on.
Set in a period when conversation was literally an art form in itself, the cutting comments and sharp witty one-liners in this Oscar Wilde play just keep on coming and coming.
There are so many Oscar Wilde quotes you recognise from this play it’s striking, the best known of which is ‘we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’.
Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan opened in London in 1892 and, as Denis Brogan, director of Sudbury Dramatic Society says in the programme: “The play is funny, engaging and heart-warming which is why after 123 years it still has the power to charm.”
In a world where we have grown used to non-verbal conversations by email and text, you really need to put on your listening ears. It takes a little while to acclimatise to the period chatter. But after that, it’s pure enjoyment.
The action of the play, set over four acts, takes places within a 24 hour period.
The 12-strong cast are polished and put on a good performance. The set is simple but effective, the glamorous costumes a feast for the eyes.
Lady Windermere (Sonia Lindsey-Scripps) discovers her husband may be having an affair with another woman. When confronted, Lord Windermere (Joseph James) denies it - but insists on inviting the other woman, Mrs Erlynne (Sara Knight) to Lady Windermere’s birthday party.
Mrs Erlynne is, in fact, Lady Windermere’s mother - a mother Lady Windermere has never known, believing she died many years ago.
Lord Windermere’s attempt and desire to save his wife from shame and disgrace, sets off a chain reaction which has consequences for everyone, with the fan belonging to Lady Windermere a key prop in a compromising situation.
The caddish Lord Darlington (Robert Crighton) is a strong lead character in the play. There were also wonderfully entertaining performances by the elegant Sonia Lindsey-Scripps and Sara Knight, particularly the highly charged scene when Mrs Erlynne implores her daughter Lady Windermere “I have wrecked my life but I will not allow you to wreck yours. You must stay with your child”.
Lorna Hollister as the Duchess of Berwick reminds you of the Maggie Smith Dowager Countess character in Downton Abbey.
Sitting in the plush and comfortable new seats in the Quay’s newly-renovated auditorium, the time just flew by which is always a good sign, in my opinion, of a good production.
Ticket for the performances tonight, Thursday, Friday and Saturday are from £10. The Quay’s box office is 01787 374745.
Review by Anne Wise.