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Mr Monkey sees Lady Windermere's Fan at the Royal Exchange Theatre, 21st May

Mr Monkey looking at the Lady Windermere's Fan poster outside the theatre Mr Monkey took his humans into Manchester for the press night of Lady Windermere's Fan.

He checked the poster outside, then scampered in to collect his tickets. He went up to the Mezzanine, where he found that the Susan Aggrawal exhibition he'd seen when he saw Miss Julie had been given an extended run.

Lady Windermere's Fan was Oscar Wilde's fourth play; it was also his first comedy and his first success. Set in London's high society at the end of the Season, the play is about Lady Windermere's reaction to being told that her husband is paying attention to, and giving money to, the notorious Mrs Erlynne. Insult is added to injury when Lord Windermere insists on Mrs Erlynne being invited to Lady Windermere's birthday party. Lady Windermere concludes that her marriage is over, and decides to run off with Lord Darlington, mainly because he'd spent the afternoon telling her how much he loved her. Disaster is averted by Mrs Erlynne who has, in her past, paid the high price of similar impulsiveness.

Mr Monkey does rather feel that the whole plot depends on everyone involved over-reacting at regular intervals and that the play would have been far less entertaining had anyone shown the slightest common sense.

Mr Monkey saw that the stage was furnished elegantly but simply with a selection of chairs, a chaise longue, and a desk. Possibly the most striking features of the set are the giant flowers - orchids, possibly - inlaid into the floor around the entrances to the stage. They're not part of the play, but they are beautiful.
Lady Windermere (Laura Rees) and her fan (Royal Exchange Theatre production photo) Mrs Erlynne (Lysette Anthony) is somewhat coquettish (Royal Exchange Theatre production photo) As Mrs Erlynne, Lisette Anthony tend rather to steal the show; her character is, of course, written that way, but she plays the part capitivatingly and draws the eye whenever she's onstage.

Laura Rees plays Lady Windermere with the poise and elegance of an Victorian lady whilst revealing an underlying vulnerability and innocence and growing realisation that people's characters aren't as black and white as she originally thought. As Lord Windermere, Milo Twomey gave a good portrayal of a reliable man trying to protect his wife without letting her know what he's doing, and continually incriminating himself while he does so.

Samuel Collings is suitably suave and persuasive as Lord Darlington, trying to run off with Lady Windermere. The last time Mr Monkey saw Mr Collings he was being Gaveston and leading Edward II astray; Mr Monkey hopes he's not getting typecast.

Eliza Collings has few lines as Lady Agatha Carlisle but delivers them effectively, with perhaps the most expressive and varied interpretations of "Yes, mama" Mr Monkey has ever heard. Mr Monkey was hugely entertained by Bernice Stegers' delightfully dictatorial portrayal of her mother, the Duchess of Berwick.

Mr Monkey was particularly impressed by the third act which takes place in Lord Darlington's private rooms; the badinage between a gang of drunken gentlemen is perfectly timed and illustrated how annoying it might have been to be trapped in an enclosed space with Oscar Wilde. It's certainly the best act for spotting Wildean quotes in their natural habitat.
Mr Monkey thoroughly enjoyed this excellent and sparkling production, though Mr Rik and Miss Carol wish the programme hadn't stated that Andrew Byatt, the Windermere's butler, had last appeared at the Exchange in Moby Dick almost 30 years ago, as they remember going to that production.

Lady Windermere's Fan runs until June 23th 2012.

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