Theatre Review - Lady Windermere’s Fan, Royal Exchange, Manchester

Lysette Anthony in Lady Windermere's Fan
Lysette Anthony in Lady Windermere's Fan
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Did Oscar Wilde inadvertently float the idea of Twitter?

Many of his scathing little epigrams on the manners and morality of Victorian England would have fitted so neatly into a 140-character message.

“Everyone may be on Twitter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” to gently corrupt just one from this gem of a revival.

Then again this is a production that does not flinch from the tragedy at the heart of its story, or from what could be deemed a more contemporary complaint: “scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.”

The Wildean wit tends to be tucked away into the folds of Lady Windermere’s Fan, particularly amongst the feast of epigrams that flow through the first act. But it is when the play opens out, to reveal the heartbreak of its story, that a full-blooded Victorian melodrama on the plight of the fallen woman is revealed.

If anyone’s in any doubt about just who she is then Mrs Erlynne’s first entrance here is singled out by dramatic spotlight, whilst even the off-stage crowd murmur is momentarily hushed.

In fairness actress Lysette Anthony has probably had that happen all her life! In her dark attraction it is easy to believe here is a character with a dozen pasts – the most dangerous woman in London.

Her poise and control is made even more arresting by the later physical lengths she goes to, standing on the abyss of disgrace.

She can’t help but bring a luminous quality to her performances here, not that the likes of Milo Twomey or Laura Rees, as Lord and Lady Winderemere, are about to be outshone.

Elsewhere the devil is in the delicious little details from director Greg Hersov’s brilliant casting. Never was there such a put-upon Lady Agatha as in Eliza Collings’ portrayal, while Oliver Gomm’s juvenile excitement, upon discovery of Lady W’s errant fan, comes direct from his inner child.

It’s also a ravishingly-dressed production. Just another reason not to miss it before June 23.