Lady Windermere's Fan

A comedy by Oscar Wilde. On the day of her Birthday Ball the tactless Duchess of Berwick let's slip to Lady Windermere what the whole of London society had been gossiping about for many weeks - that her husband has been calling on the notorious and mysterious Mrs Erlynee... Oscar Wilde combines intrigue and humour in this witty and funny comedy of Victorian manners and morals.

Oscar Wilde's other plays include A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband and The Importance Of Being Earnest. The playwright was the subject of David Hare's play The Judas Kiss.

Original West End Production at the St James Theatre 1892

1st London West End Revival at the St James Theatre 1904

2nd London West End Revival at the St James Theatre 1911

London Revival at the Everyman Theatre Hampstead 1930

London West End Charity Performance at His Majesty's Theatre 1931

London Revival at the Regent Theatre, King's Cross 1931

3rd London West End Revival at the Haymarket Theatre 1945

After the Ball (Noel Coward) at the Globe Theatre 1954

4th London West End Revival at the Phoenix Theatre 1966

5th London West End Revival at the Albery Theatre 1994

6th London West End Revival at the Haymarket Theatre 1997

After The Ball (Noel Coward) at the Peacock Theatre 1999

7th London West End Revival at the Haymarket Theatre 2002

8th London West End Revival at the Vaudeville Theatre 2018

Original West End Production at the St James Theatre 1892

Opened 20 February 1892, Closed 29 July 1892 at the St James's Theatre (now demolished)
Returned 31 October 1892, Closed 30 November 1892 at the St James's Theatre (now demolished)

The original cast featured Lily Hanbury as 'Lady Windermere', George Alexander as 'Lord Windermere', Marion Terry as 'Mrs Erlynne', Nutcombe Gould as 'Lord Darlington' and Fanny Coleman as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Presented by George Alexander.

1st London West End Revival at the St James Theatre 1904

Opened 19 November 1904, Closed 11 February 1905 at the St James's Theatre (now demolished)

The original cast featured Lilian Braithwaite as 'Lady Windermere', Ben Webster as 'Lord Windermere', Marion Terry as 'Mrs. Erlynne', C Aubrey Smith as 'Lord Darlington' and Fanny Coleman as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Presented by George Alexander.

2nd London West End Revival at the St James Theatre 1911

Opened 14 October 1911, Closed 1 December 1911 at the St James's Theatre (now demolished)

The original cast featured Lilian Braithwaite as 'Lady Windermere', Dawson Milward as 'Lord Windermere', Marion Terry as 'Mrs. Erlynne', Norman Trevor as 'Lord Darlington' and Mrs G Kemmis as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Presented by George Alexander.

London Revival at the Everyman Theatre Hampstead 1930

Opened 3 July 1930, Closed 26 July 1930 at the Everyman Theatre, Hampstead

The original cast featured Kathleen O'Regan as 'Lady Windermere', Cecil Parker as 'Lord Windermere', Kate Cutler as 'Mrs. Erlynne', Eric Maturin as 'Lord Darlington' and Margaret Yarde as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Directed by Stephen Thomas.

London West End Charity Performance at His Majesty's Theatre 1931

12 June 1931 at His Majesty's Theatre (now Her Majesty's Theatre)

The cast featured Adele Dixon as 'Lady Windermere', Athole Stewart as 'Lord Windermere', Miriam Lewes as 'Mrs. Erlynne', Eric Maturin as 'Lord Darlington' and Margaret Yarde as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Directed by Ernest Thesiger.

A special Friday matinee charity performance in aid of Charing Cross Hospital and the Stage Guild Benevolent Fund.

London Revival at the Regent Theatre, King's Cross 1931

Opened 4 July 1931, Closed 10 July 1931 at the Regent Theatre, King's Cross

The original cast featured Betty Bowden as 'Lady Windermere', Douglas Phillips as 'Lord Windermere', Dorothy Millar as 'Mrs. Erlynne', Ivan Agabeg as 'Lord Darlington' and Winifred Burke as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Directed by Ellis J Preston.

Presented 'twice-nightly' by the London Repertory Company.

3rd London West End Revival at the Haymarket Theatre 1945

Opened 21 August 1945, Closed 8 February 1947 at the Haymarket Theatre

The original cast featured Dorothy Hyson as 'Lady Windermere', Geoffrey Toone as 'Lord Windermere', Isabel Jeans as 'Mrs. Erlynne', Griffith Toone as 'Lord Darlington' and Athene Seyler as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Directed by John Gielgud with sets and costumes by Cecil Beaton.

Playing eight-performances-a-week for a year-and-a-half, this is the longest continuously running production of any Oscar Wilde play in either London's West End or New York's Broadway. (Note: The longest combined running production was Peter Hall's 1992 production of An Ideal Husband which run for a total of three years at five different theatres up to 1999).

After the Ball (Noel Coward) at the Globe Theatre 1954

Opened 10 June 1954, Closed 20 November 1954 at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre)

The original cast featured Vanessa Lee as 'Lady Windermere', Peter Graves as 'Lord Windermere', Mary Ellis as 'Mrs. Erlynne', Shamus Locke as 'Lord Darlington' and Irene Browne as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Directed by Robert Helpmann with sets and costumes by Doris Zinkeisen.

A musical adaptation writen by Noel Coward.

4th London West End Revival at the Phoenix Theatre 1966

Opened 13 October 1966, Closed 18 March 1967 at the Phoenix Theatre

The orginal cast featured Juliet Mills as 'Lady Windermere', John Humphry as 'Lord Windermere', Coral Browne as 'Mrs. Erlynne', Ronald Lewis as 'Lord Darlington' and Isabel Jeans as 'Duchess of Berwick'. The cast also included Corin Redgrave as 'Cecil Graham'. Directed by Anthony Quayle with sets and costumes by Cecil Beaton, and lighting by Joe Davis.

5th London West End Revival at the Albery Theatre 1994

Previewed 19 July 1994, Opened 25 July 1994, Closed 14 January 1995 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)

The original cast featured and Amanda Elwes as 'Lady Windermere', Rupert Frazer as 'Lord Windermere', Francesca Annis as 'Mrs. Erlynne', Simon Dutton as 'Lord Darlington' and Jennifer Hilary as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Directed and designed by Philip Prowse.

Presented by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company

6th London West End Revival at the Haymarket Theatre 1997

Previewed 25 March 1997, Opened 1 April 1997, Closed 26 July 1997 at the Haymarket Theatre

The original cast featured Rebecca Johnson as 'Lady Windermere', Richard Hansell as 'Lord Windermere', Gabrielle Drake as 'Mrs. Erlynne', Simon Robson as 'Lord Darlington' and Rosalind Knight as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Directed by Braham Murray with designs by Simon Higlett, lighting by Vince Herbert and sound by Steve Brown.

Presented by the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre Company. The original ten week season up to 12 July 1997, was extended by two week.

"In Braham Murray's cut-glass production, originally seen at the Manchester Royal Exchange, Gabrielle Drake leaves the Crossroads Motel far behind to play the mysterious Mrs Erlynne, one of those fallen women with a scandalous past, without which Victorian melodrama would be pale pink rather than scarlet... Murray's production, performed by a cast who look as if they have spent their entire lives in evening dress, makes a reasonably good case for the play as more than just a string of witty epigrams. Drake's charismatic Mrs Erlynne is a slinky, sharp operator with a superb dressmaker, who has the misfortune to discover after 20 years of childlessness that she has a maternal heart that can be all-too-easily pierced... It is a beautifully judged performance. There is good work, too, from relative newcomer Rebecca Johnson, as the puritan Lady Windermere. Sure enough, it is drawing room comedy. But at least it is one that makes you feel that tea and social niceties in this particular salon will never be quite the same again. And there are few plays that nail the private and public faces of hypocrisy quite so well." The Guardian

"In self-sacrificially not revealing herself as Lady Windermere's mother and in not disclosing how near her daughter has come to compromising herself, Mrs Erlynne gives her blessing to marriage, conformity, and unreal standards that it has been demonstrated can only be sustained by lies and illusions. Like Francesca Annis, who played this latter role in the West End three years ago, Gabrielle Drake, who now performs the part in Braham Murray's enjoyable but distinctly patchy production, is at her best in the great scene where she decides to keep quiet and where unfamiliar maternal feelings stir painfully under the practised social mask... Ms Drake is very witty and excels at sweeping off stage with a brilliantly timed barbed remark on her lips but, like the rest of the cast, she adopts unconscionably many postures during the badly written melodramatic moments... Playing Lady Windermere, Rebecca Johnson establishes an initial warmth and consequently is never so shrilly self-aggrieved as to become rebarbative, and Rosalind Knight, splendid as the iron-clad Duchess of Berwick, delivers her lines as if they were delayed action deadly devices for which the Duchess can accept no responsibility." The Independent

"Some of Oscar Wilde's sparkiest one-liners can be found in Lady Windermere's Fan, but Braham Murray's production at London's Theatre Royal, Haymarket, is sometimes as flat as they are fizzy. Gabrielle Drake is a starry, glamorous and alluring Mrs Erlynne - the woman of mystery who almost shatters and then welds together the marriage of the young Windermeres - and this very witty comedy of manners and morals is as relevant today as it ever was. Shame that some uneven playing on opening night occasionally stopped the wit hitting the Fan." The News of the World

Lady Windermere's Fan in London at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) previewed from 19 July 1994, opened on 25 July 1994 and closed on 14 January 1995

After The Ball (Noel Coward) at the Peacock Theatre 1999

27 May 1999 at the Peacock Theatre

The cast featured Linda Kitchen as 'Lady Windemere', Eric Roberts as 'Lord Windemere', Marie McLaughlin as 'Mrs Erlynne', Karl Daymond as 'Lord Darlington' and Penelope Keith as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Directed by Paul Curran.

A concert performance of Noel Coward's adaptation, presented as part of the 1999 Covent Garden Festival. Broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 27 December 1999.

7th London West End Revival at the Haymarket Theatre

Previewed 13 February 2002, Opened 21 February 2002, Closed 8 June 2002 at the Haymarket Theatre

The original cast featured Joely Richardson as 'Lady Windermere', David Yelland as 'Lord Windermere', Vanessa Redgrave as 'Mrs. Erlynne', Jack Davenport as 'Lord Darlington' and Googie Withers as 'Duchess of Berwick'. Directed by Peter Hall with designs by John Gunter, lighting by Jon Buswell and sound by Gregory Clarke.

The cast starred real-life mother-and-daughter Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson.

"Director Peter Hall appeared to have scored a great casting coup in persuading Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter Joely Richardson to star on stage together for the first time, playing a mother and her daughter. But they turn out to be the weakest aspect of an often richly enjoyable revival. As so often, Redgrave veers wildly between the superbly true and the abysmally fake, sometimes in the course of a single speech. But she is far better than the dismayingly stilted Richardson, who spends the production looking wonderful and acting dreadfully... It is the valient supporting cast who save the show... On the occasion, it is the show's stars who so disappointingly fail to shine." The Daily Telegraph

"Nothing about Peter Hall's production of Lady Windermere's Fan is quite good enough, and, as a result, the play seems not good enough either... I've seldom heard a first night where so many actors seemed so often to be unsure of their lines. Other basic acting problems proliferate throughout. Some actors pause stiffly between lines and then overdo the 'spontaneity' of what they then say, others recite their lines like rote-work... The best charm comes from Googie Withers as the Duchess of Berwick, although she fumbles her lines a good deal. Vanessa Redgrave is at her most inconsistent as Mrs Erlynne: she makes decisions about one line that seem cancelled out by the next, and she's very stop-start in her delivery. Still, her magic shines through once or twice, especially in stillness. Her real-life daughter Joely Richardson plays her stage daughter Lady Windermere. In a largely poor evening, she is the most consistently poor ingredient. Fidgety, vocally underinflected, astonishingly vulgar in her open-mouthed reactions and head-tossings, she snuffles a lot and gives no sense whatsoever that Lady Windermere is a paragon of social refinement. John Gunter's set looks like a magnified doily. I repeat: Not good enough." The Financial Times

"Heartfelt natural and convincing though they were - Miss Richardson as the aristocrat's young wife who ironically never knows Miss Redgrave's Wicked Lady is her long-lost mother - I never felt they stirred any special, intense emotions in their scenes together. Still, what escapist pleasure it is to be wafted back 100 years in Peter Hall's witty, sharply acted production, there to be reminded that top people's malicious gossip in those days was much the same as in ours... With its flashes and dashes of melodramatic plot-making Lady Windermere's Fan emerges as a highly intelligent, aristocratic equivalent of television soap opera... In John Gunter's design for a Duke's London home, an unlovely box-like space, with walls made of patterned, transparent material, sits Joely Richardson's Lady Windermere. Hardly has this slender, long-limbed creature warded off Jack Davenport's smitten, effete Lord Darlington than Googie Withers's witty Duchess arrives to spread a little malicious gossip... As Lady Windermere's saviour Miss Redgrave quivers and shimmers with convincing emotion. But when it comes to Mrs Erlynne's hard, cynical, calculating side she turns a little sentimental and fails to show a cutting edge. Miss Richardson makes a touchingly griefstricken, though sometimes lightweight Lady Windermere. And though Sir Peter's production is a little too stiff-lipped and stiff-limbed it's rich in its satirical pickings, shaftings and epigrams. The superb John McCallum makes a languid, doddering old lecher of a Lord in search of a longterm lay. Roger Hammond's intriguing duplicitous Mr Dumby, with his eye on the main sexual chance and Robert Hands's Wildean dandy help complete Wilde's brilliant satire at the expense of a sexually obsessed, high society where secrecy and hypocrisy are survival techniques." The London Evening Standard

"With butlers, ball-gowns and lashings of society chatter, West End theatre doesn't come posher. Joely Richardson (in the title role) is the society hostess who spurns the notorious Mrs Erlynne (Vanessa Redgrave) who she thinks is carrying on with her husband, only to discover later on that this scarlet woman is in fact her own, long-lost mum. A mother and daughter off stage playing a mother and daughter on stage: it's a brilliant coup, but the reality is less exciting. The two Redgraves don't really do the business. Joely looks sensational as the priggish young Lady Windermere, but she furiously signals all her emotions as if acting in semaphore. The great Vanessa goes in for some horsey grinning in the sort of manic, over-the-top performance you might have expected had she been doing a sketch with Eric and Ernie. There is some fun to be had from the real stars of this, namely Googie Withers - hilarious as a nosey old bag of a duchess - and her husband, the actor John McCallum who is playing a randy, geriatric peer. Apart from these two live-wires, the rest of the menfolk wander painfully about as if they've all got prostate trouble. Where's the zing and the zest? For the most part this bunch of immaculately dressed waxworks never gingered me up." The Daily Express

Lady Windermere's Fan in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 13 February 2002, opened on 21 February 2002 and closed on 8 June 2002

8th London West End Revival at the Vaudeville Theatre

Previewed 12 January 2018, Opened 22 January 2018, Closed 7 April 2018 at the Vaudeville Theatre

A major revival of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan in London starring Samantha Spiro, Kevin Bishop and Jennifer Saunders, and directed by Kathy Burke

The cast features Samantha Spiro as 'Mrs Erlynne', Grace Molony as 'Lady Windermere', Joshua James as 'Lord Windermere', Kevin Bishop as 'Lord Darlington' and Jennifer Saunders as 'Duchess of Berwick' with Victoria Blunt as 'Mrs Cowper-Cowper', Roger Evans as 'Mr Dumby', Joseph Marcell as 'Lord Lorton', Natasha Magigi as 'Lady Plymdale', Ami Metcalf as 'Lady Agatha Carlisle / the maid Rosalie', Charlie Mulliner as 'Lady Stutfield', Sian Polhill-Thomas as 'Lady Jedburgh', David O'Reilly as 'Cecil Graham', Benedict Salter as 'Sir James Royston', Gary Shelford as 'Mr Hopper' and Matthew Darcy as the butler 'Parker'. Directed by Kathy Burke with designs by Paul Wills, lighting by Paul Keogan, music by Shane Cullinan and sound by John Leonard. Please be aware that the following performances will be filmed: Saturday 17 March at 2.30pm and Tuesday 20 March at 7.30pm.

When this production opened here at the Vaudeville Theatre in January 2018, Ann Treneman in the Times highlighted that "the real star is the play and it has been improved by the director Kathy Burke's skilful editing... Grace Molony plays Lady W. This is her West End debut and she is terrific in a part where she has to hold her own against Jennifer Saunders's stonkingly good Duchess of Berwick... Kevin Bishop is a dashingly funny Lord Darlington." Neil Norman in the Daily Express praised how "the youthful cast delivers Oscar Wilde's sparkling dialogue with speed and clarity and no sooner have you stopped laughing at one line than you are giggling at the next... The casting is unusual but inspired. Jennifer Saunders' bottled snob is a joy and she is surrounded by a roster of excellent performances from Molony's sparky but vulnerable Lady Windermere to Joseph Marcell's wife-hunting hedonist Lord Lorton." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph described how "Jennifer Saunders steals the show in the minor but pivotal role of the Duchess of Berwick... She is all mannerism but it works a treat... This production only intermittently locates any memorable gritty emotion beneath the glittery bons mots, though... It's serviceable enough as a fun night out and fans of Saunders would be mad to miss it." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard thought that "fans of Jennifer Saunders will be well pleased, but saddened by the comparative smallness of the part. Elsewhere, matters are less certain... the threadbare plot does look rather spread thin." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper commented how Kathy Burke's "revival helps to rejuvenate the play with some sparky casting and by pouring real feeling into the creaky melodramatic conventions from which Oscar Wilde was unable to free himself... The show is uneven but there's a freshness here that's very attractive." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times said that "Kathy Burke directs Wilde's first great dramatic success in a careful pastiche of the late-Victorian manner that also includes an assortment of tweaks and nudges more in tune with a 2018 audience... Burke has a keen directorial eye, but periodically her comic actor's instincts win out." Lyn Gardner in the Guardian wrote that "this is an uneven production, directed by Kathy Burke, but it has its moments, most particularly when Samantha Spiro's Mrs Erlynne, discovering an unlikely capacity for self-sacrifice, sadly observes how easily love is killed." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail explained that, "every scene she is in, Miss Saunders steals. Given that a large percentage of the audience will probably go because of her, such stage-hogging may be excusable. But it unbalances the production. Director Kathy Burke is not helped by a patchy cast... But Samantha Spiro is excellent as Mrs Erlynne. Grace Molony does well as Lady Windermere and Joshua James as her husband."

Samantha Spiro's London stage credits include being part of the acting company in Phelim McDermott's production of Patrick Barlow's stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol starring Jim Broadbent at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2015; the role of 'Viv' in Anna Mackmin's production of Amelia Bullmore's play Di and Viv and Rose at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2015; the role of 'Maria' in Michael Grandage's revival of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night for the Donmar Warehouse at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2008; and the role of 'Jan' in Loveday Ingram's revival of Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Bedroom Farce at the Aldwych Theatre in 2002. At the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre Samantha Spiro has played the roles of 'Mrs Dolly Gallagher Levi' in Timothy Sheader's revival of Jerry Herman's musical Hello, Dolly! in 2009; 'Daisy Parke' in Ian Talbot's revival of the George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin musical Lady, Be Good! in 1992; and 'the Courtesan' in Judi Dench's revival of the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical The Boys From Syracuse in 1991.

Kevin Bishop's West End credits include the role of 'Carter' in Neil LaBute's production of his own comedy Fat Pig at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2008.

Jennifer Saunders' London theatre credits include, along with Dawn French, French and Saunders Still Alive at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2008.

Kathy Burke's West End directing credits include Carmel Morgan's comedy Smaller starring Dawn French and Alison Moyet at the Lyric Theatre in 2006 and Karen McLachlan's comedy Betty starring Geraldine McNulty at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2002.

"Oscar Wilde's predominant theme of self-realisation in the face of social convention remains powerful but after the clumsy asides and melodramatic revelations of the play's first act, its second brings such an assault of aphorisms that it feels more like the recital of a commonplace book than a human drama. Paul Wills's elegant set is the freshest aspect of Kathy Burke's production. Samantha Spiro brings a spirited warmth and Grace Molony and Joshua James an appealing sincerity to their roles, but the other leading performances are lamentable. Jennifer Saunders's broad portrayal will amuse her fans." The Sunday Express

"An evening of Oscar Wilde often leaves you with the sense that something is missing. All that comedy of manners can be awfully, well, mannered. But who knew that what was missing was Jennifer Saunders as a duchess singing a pleasingly smutty music hall-style ditty? Written by director Kathy Burke, the song serves as an amusing filler during a scene change and also beefs up the Ab Fab star's part. Saunders speaks the lyrics rather than sings them and milks the suggestive chorus - 'Keep your hands off my fan, sir' - for all it's worth. By this point in the proceedings, the actress and comedian has already delivered the funniest turn... She plays haughty scandalmonger the Duchess of Berwick, who swishes around the stage waving her cane at everyone she disapproves of. Her targets include Kevin Bishop's Lord Darlington, who is smitten with the married Lady Windermere (a terrific Grace Molony) and most certainly Samantha Spiro's dangerously unattached Mrs Erlynne. Granted, the plot of misunderstandings is thin... Burke injects just the right amount of pathos, thanks largely to Spiro, who as Mrs Erlynne is witty and worldly but, without being heavy handed in the serious scenes, knows exactly the importance of being earnest." The London Metro

"The director, Kathy Burke, has skilfully cut the play down to a two-hour running time, including an interval, giving us a sunny and fast-moving production with some jolly comedy. Jennifer Saunders steals the show, managing to be simultaneously tight-lipped, buttoned-up and way over the top as the Duchess of Berwick, under a hat the size of Northumberland. Maybe it's a bit too broad-brush, somewhat lacking in subtlety, but it is funny... All this broad comedy and bawdry undercuts the more serious side of the play, not to mention its relentless, exhaustingly "witty" one-liners... Nevertheless, the serious moral heart of the play is also captured by Grace Molony as Lady Windermere, a young and slightly priggish wife who has to learn from experience that classifying entire human beings as either good or bad (with yourself in the former camp, obviously) can lead to all sorts of trouble... Samantha Spiro is Mrs Erlynne, one of Wilde's supposedly attractive sinners; but, unfortunately, the more you look at her, the more Lady Windermere's early dislike of her seems understandable... Spiro gives her a certain femme fatale allure, but she's impossible to like. One or two of the minor characters are poorly played, though Kevin Bishop's Lord Darlington is amusing, again playing for broad comedy... and David O'Reilly is good value as the catty fatboy Cecil." The Sunday Times

Following on from A Woman of No Importance, this revival is presented as the second play in Dominic Dromgoole's Classic Spring Theatre Company's Oscar Wilde Season. The next two productions here at the Vaudeville Theatre will be An Ideal Husband from May to July 2018, and The Importance Of Being Earnest from July to October 2018.

Lady Windermere's Fan in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 12 January 2018, opened on 22 January 2017 and closed on 7 April 2018