In this case though, after two decades away, the glamourous Mrs Erlynne is determined to re-establish her position and has forcibly enlisted the help of Lord Windermere – much to the consternation of his young wife when, on her birthday, she hears the rumours that are circulating about the relationship between her spouse and the older woman.
Again, Wilde focusses both on the harsh judgements passed by society on women whose behaviour is seen to be immoral and, ultimately, on the self-sacrificing love of a mother for her child. Even the odious Duchess of Berwick (played with comic relish by Jennifer Saunders, dismissing those she disapproves of with a scornful flick of her cane) wants the best for her subdued daughter – ensuring her engagement to a wealthy Aussie bachelor.
Played out against an attractive, fan-dominated set, Kathy Burke’s enjoyable production includes some nice touches – the Duchess delivering an innuendo-packed music-hall ditty (penned by Burke) during a scene change, Kevin Bishop’s sleek Lord Darlington (who tries to woo young Lady Windermere away from her husband) posing knowingly beneath his portrait, the servants registering their own moments of protest, and a wordless hint at the possibility of a homosexual tryst.
Samantha Spiro’s flirtatious Mrs Erlynne glows, then almost falters, as she sees the possibility of a new happiness being snatched from her, and, with a running time of just a couple of hours, this trimmed down version keeps the Wildean witticisms in check and never outstays its welcome..
Vaudeville, Strand WC2R 0NH
Tube: Charing Cross
Until April 7th 2018
£19.50 – £55.00 + premium seats