STYLISH, classy and immaculately observed there is a real panache about the Loft’s revival of Oscar Wilde’s classic examination of responsibility, fidelity and honesty in family life.
Admittedly it’s a play better viewed as a period piece than a work of much relevant social comment, but – thanks to this beautifully-staged production – it still works and still pays its way .
There are two plays at work here. One is a serious moral dismantling of the nature of trust and reputation in a relationship; the other is a comic deconstruction of the eternal differences between the sexes as they strive to form those relationships.
As director, William Wilkinson ensures that, as far as possible, the two strands don’t become confused with one another. A strong directorial hand is also at work to prevent the more dated exchanges becoming the parody of Edwardian comedy they could so easily become.
There are excellent performances throughout. Leonie Slater as Lady Windermere and Lorna Middleton as the woman whose presence, initially a threat, later a guarded revelation, both convince and hold the attention. At times Wilde’s flowing script is slow by modern standards and the fact that we believe in these people at all is testament to some commendable concentration.
There is also a fine turn from Elaine Freeborn as the Duchess dispensing unwanted advice and questionably tired wisdom whether it’s requested or not.
On the comic side of the coin there are fine character performances from Jeremy Heynes, Bryan Ferriman and John Fenner all savouring the crisp, astute one-liners quotable enough to give them separate lives outside the play. This relaxed, cynical side provides the perfect counterpoint to the moralising going on elsewhere.
Richard Moore’s set is impressive and the work put in on the finer details is there for all to see. The staging is confident and clear throughout, right down to the wryly choreographed scene changes. Hats off too to the wardrobe department for a splendid range of sumptuous costumes.
Early run glitches and a few oddly-delivered lines apart, the pace throughout is good. There is every indication this show will get better as any wrinkles are smoothed out.
Lady Windermere’s Fan runs until Saturday, April 9. Full details and ticket booking at lofttheatrecompany.com