Turn of the Wheel Productions is a new London theatre company looking to “deliver high calibre theatre, which will both provoke and entertain an audience, in a variety of forms and genres from the classics to new writing”. Their debut production is Oscar Wilde’s classic Lady Windermere’s Fan at the Bridewell Theatre, directed by award-winning Adam Morley.
Wilde’s play tells the story of Lady Windermere (Autumn Ellis) whose perfect life is set to be destroyed when the Duchess of Berwick (Grace Fairbairn) informs her that her husband is having an affair with the mysterious and scandalous Mrs Erlynne (Judy Buxton) – and everybody knows about it. To make matters worse, Lord Windermere (David Grainger) insists that Mrs Erlynne will be invited to Lady Windermere’s birthday ball that evening, subsequently driving her into the arms of Lord Darlington (Piers Hunt). Mistaken identity, scandal, secrets and lapses of judgement ensue, in an exploration of “love, desire, marriage and deception”.
Wilde’s play is wonderfully brought to life by the cast, and the decadence and style of the 1920s in which the play is set is evoked, particularly with the striking costumes. Why the play was chosen to be set in this era is a little unclear, but it works well and does not detract from the dialogue and plot, instead fitting well with the society it depicts.
…comic timing is precise and effective…
The cast is strong and solid, with each character well-cast, and each carrying their lines and characters with confidence. The comic timing is precise and effective, provoking much laughter from the audience. Lady Windermere is at the centre of the plot, but it is the characters around her which are fascinating and bring the play to life.
Autumn Ellis believably charts Lady Windermere’s growth from fragility and vulnerability to authority by the end of the play and Grace Fairbairn gives a particularly strong performance as Duchess of Berwick, filling the stage with the larger than life character. Piers Hunt and David Grainger both give strong performances as Lord Darlington and Lord Windermere respectively, portraying the complexities of both characters. The drunken conversation between Lord Windermere, Lord Darlington, Lord Augustus (David Shackleton) and others successfully draws the audience in and includes one of the famous and well-known lines, “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”. Despite the familiarity of this phrase, it still feels fresh and resonant today.
…full of fast-paced action and dialogue…
Overall, Turn of the Wheel Production’s debut of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan is full of fast-paced action and dialogue, performed by a strong cast who bring Wilde’s moving and witty play to life. Importantly, it shows that Wilde’s words have the same resonance, relevance and wit today as they did when they were first heard in 1892.
Lady Windermere’s Fan runs at the Bridewell Theatre from 8 – 19 January
Tickets: £14/£12 concessions