Two of the Silver Travel team were invited to attend this wonderful play, and here is our review of it.
Thrown into an overwhelming new social world, earnest young Gerald Arbuthnot attends a house party at Lady Hunstanton’s country home. He’s excited as he’s just been offered employment by the suave Lord Illingworth. But why is Gerald’s mother so anxious for him to turn down the job?
Oscar Wilde’s timeless satire on the gossip and scandal of the English upper class – A Woman of No Importance – has opened at the Vaudeville, The Strand. Staged by Classic Spring, a new company formed by Dominic Dromgoole, previously the Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Dromgoole also directs the play.
Its powerful cast includes Olivier award winner Eve Best (A Moon for the Misbegotten and Hedda Gabler), Eleanor Bron (Help!, Alfie), William Gaunt (King Lear, The Crucible) and Anne Reid (Last Tango in Halifax).
Instantly engaging, the play took no concentration and we soon found ourselves laughing out loud. Delighted too to hear some of Wilde’s best-known witticisms in the dialogue. To choose but three:
• ‘The English country gentleman galloping after a fox – the unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable.’
• ‘The happiness of a married man depends on the people he has not married.’
• ‘All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, that is his.’
Although this comedy (or tragedy?) of manners, pokes fun at late Victorian society, much of it still resonates in the 2010s. Commendably, the director hasn’t modernised the set or the costumes from the 1890s setting. Everything was very Victorian – brilliant, as it further goes to emphasise how much of a punch Wilde can still pack.
Where this production really came into its own is in the proscenium (front of the stage curtain) musical interludes. These draw the audience into a make believe evening of late 19th century entertainment hosted by the Lady of the Manor (Anne Reid).
The play is as much about then tension between generations as it is about the sexes but make no mistake, the engines of the play were two elder characters brilliantly played by Bron and Reid. It was obvious that audience members of all ages were in stiches throughout the performance.
A Woman of No Importance is the first in a season of four Wilde plays which will continue at the Vaudeville. The others will be Lady Windermere’s Fan, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest.