Lady Windermere's Fan

Photo: Darragh Kane

Photo: Darragh Kane

In its profile, The Everyman Theatre Company states that it was founded in 1963 “to bring the best of world theatre to Cork audiences”. It is a pity, then, that the company feels it has to look back as far as 1892 for the best of world theatre, as there is a lot of both young and old talent within the company whose talents would be better displayed through more modern and challenging writing.

Lady Windermere’s Fan is a satire on the morals of Victorian society and marriage. Having been alerted to the sensationalist gossip surrounding the daily visits of her husband Lord Windermere (played by Ian McGuirk) to another woman’s residence, the eponymous Lady Windermere (played by Rose Donovan) believes her husband is having an affair. However, when she confronts him about this he does nothing to assuage her fears and ends up inviting his mystery woman to a party at their home. Incensed, Lady Windermere decides to take up Lord Darlington’s (played by Conor Dwane) offer of elopement only to be shown the error of her ways when her husband’s mystery woman stops Lady Windermere from making the same mistake she made a long time ago.

The plot of Lady Windermere’s Fan is one that isn’t a far stretch from the regular undertakings of the residents of Albert Square or Coronation Street today with its interest in secrets, lies and sex scandals. Of course Wilde’s language is more impressive and the dialogue is much wittier. But I still lament the fact that new plays and playwrights are not supported in the same way their deceased counterparts are, especially when such a beautiful line as ‘we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars’, even when uttered so eloquently by actor Conor Dwane, has lost its shine through over-use. 

Michael Twomey’s direction is elegant as is Jim Queally’s set design. Twomey really makes his mark in Act 3 when the men convene in Lord Darlington’s Rooms. This scene is particularly fluid and natural allowing the actors with smaller parts room to grow. The costumes, all hand-made in Cork by wardrobe mistress Mary Newman, are impressive. However, it is the fantastic cast who really make this production worth watching. Rose Donovan is charismatic as Lady Windermere. Vanessa Hyde holds the mysterious and contradictory elements of Mrs Erlynne perfectly in place. Both Ian McGuirk and Conor Dwane are perfectly cast as the misread husband Lord Windermere and the rogue suitor Lord Darlington, respectively.

Adding comic elements to the production are the three excellent performances of Ronnie O’Shaughnessy, who plays the Duchess of Berwicke to excellent comic effect, David Coon as the hilariously effusive and indomitable Lord Augustus ‘Tippy’ Lorton, and Pat O’Regan as the sprightly Australian heir Mr Dumby.
Overall, this is an old-fashioned production that is seemingly effortless but enjoyable in its delivery. However, I would like to see the company perhaps bring us a more modern and challenging production next time – they certainly have the ability, if not the ambition, to do so.

Nicola Depuis is the author of Mna na hEireann – The Women Who Shaped Ireland (Mercier Press, 2009).  

  • Review
  • Theatre

Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde

19 - 29 January, 2011

Produced by Everyman Theatre Company
In Everyman Palace Theatre

Directed by Michael Twomey

Set Design: Jim Queally

Wardrobe: Mary Newman

Lighting Designer: Paul Denby

Stage Manager: Sharon Lynch

With: Rose Donovan, Vanessa Hyde, Ian McGuirk, Ronnie O’ Shaughnessy, Conor Dwane, David Coon, Pat O’Regan, Ber Power, Olive O’Callaghan, Caroline Murphy, Brendan Hourigan, Brian Fenton, Anna Grace, Margo Lyons, Claire Mullane.