Lady Windermere’s Fan (O’Reilly Theatre, Oxford)

It wouldn’t be summer in Oxford if we didn’t have a couple of Oscar Wilde plays on offer. This year is no exception – we have already had a garden version of The Importance of Being Earnest and now, in the O’Reilly Theatre in Keble College, we get the story of Lady Windermere and her troublesome fan.

Presented by student company Porpentine Productions, this is a straightforward and unpretentious presentation of the witty script. There have been a few cuts and various characters have been conflated but the narrative remains clear and concise. The set is more ambitious that many student shows and perfectly serviceable. The costumes are pretty and serve the characters well.

The key to performing Wilde well, in my opinion, is to use the natural rhythms of his writing. There is an elegance to his words that requires a precision and a delicacy of touch to really make them fizz. Here the cast could probably have used an extra few days of rehearsal. Opening nights can often be marred by nerves and the occasional hesitation can be forgiven – however, some of the interchanges really needed a little more work. I am sure that by the end of the week these little niggles will be ironed out.

As is often the way, it was the ladies of the cast who outshone the gentlemen. Alexandra Hedges manages to combine fragility with an inner strength in her portrayal of the title character. Christine Taylor as Mrs Erlynne has an appropriate hauteur that reminded me of a younger Lindsey Duncan. Credit must also go to Phoebe Thompson who shows great skill as a character actor in her performance as the Duchess of Berwick. Will Cudmore and Jonathan Tilley delivered a couple of charming cameo performances that stood out from the rest of the male cast.

This is by no means a spectacularly innovative production but it serves the audience well. It is entertaining, captures the period feel and has some good performances. With tickets at £7 (with concessions a mere £5) it is excellent value for money.

The production runs until Saturday 13th with tickets available at the door or from Tickets Oxford ( or 01865 305305)