Passions ran as high as the soaring temperature inside Islington’s King’s Head Theatre on Thursday night for the opening of Lady Windermere’s Fan.
The Oscar Wilde comedy, which satirises the social conventions and behaviour of the upper classes, never fails to delight and this latest production by Ruby In The Dust, was a real treat.
You had to feel sorry for the game cast who, weighted down by period costume, were almost passing out in the heat.
The paper thin story centres around the 21st birthday of new mother, Lady Windermere, who is influenced by viperous gossip into believing that her husband is having an affair with a lady of dubious morals.
The lady concerned, Mrs Margaret Erlynne, wants to be reintroduced into society – but society is putting its foot down and firmly shutting the door in her face.
It’s Lady Windermere’s birthday party and her husband risks everything by forcing his wife to invite the disgraced Mrs Erlynne.
A rival suitor, the dashing Lord Darlington, seizes his chance and tries to convince the furious Lady W to run away with him despite the scandal that it would cause.
In today’s liberal climate no-one would bat an eyelid if someone divorced or ran away with a married woman (except, perhaps, the married man) so it’s hard for modern audiences to relate to the rigid moral code of Victorian society.
Ruby In The Dust has “updated” the story to the London salons of the 1930s but little has changed in the interim.
But this is a comedy packed with such marvellous characters that the story becomes secondary.
Graham Hoadly brings his considerable experience to the stage to deliver a charming performance as the blustering and enamoured Lord “Tuppy” Augustus.
Dear old Tuppy is a member of English high society who sets his heart on marrying the scandalous Mrs Erlynne. It’s a tremendous character part delivered with finesse.
He’s almost upstaged by Jo Ashe as the scandal-monger, The Duchess, a woman who dines on gossip from every quarter.
Ruary Cannnon makes a stiff and very conventional suitor of Lord Darlington (what could she possibly see in him?) while Nathan Lubbock-Smith is hysterical, giving an eccentric performance as Darlington’s chum, Cecil Graham.
Director Linnie Reedman has come up with a tight production with the running time pared to under two hours.
Everything’s there – Wilde’s trademark rapier-like wit and pronouncement plus the condemnation of high society and its hypocrisy.
On top of that the cast deliver a cracking comedy.