Mollie Matthews, Director of Foot of the Hill Theatre Company’s ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’, shares her thoughts on the creation of their intimate and immersive social comedy.

Typical of Oscar Wilde’s style, ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ is a play which gives the audience a snapshot of upper class society and an insight into their culture of gossip and scandal. The play follows the near-collapse of Lady Windermere’s marriage and position in high society due to the arrival of a mysterious elder woman, who Lady Windermere believes to be the mistress of her own husband, Lord Windermere. In the 20 hours of the Windermeres’ life that the play follows, the plot unravels with a surprising twist of fate and a turmoil of emotions.

Wilde’s beautifully satirical social comedy challenges the conceptions and beliefs of not only past societies, but also the society of today. ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ is a play with strong female characters at its core, with the likes of the Duchess, Mrs Erlynne, and, arguably, Lady Windermere herself. Yet even with its significant social commentary and mockery of values, it remains a play which has a lighthearted, cheeky, and flirtatious humour to it.

My creative vision for this production initially stemmed from the desire to create an intimate and immersive performance and experience for the actors as well as the audience; with the aim to force the audience to see the world as it is (or was), thus allowing them to create their own judgement of it. Our interpretation of Wilde’s play draws upon the beauty of society and the nature of socialising – especially as we emerge out of the COVID-era – whilst also undercutting its arguably flawed values and norms. And it does all this, meanwhile, in a sarcastic and jovial manner.

As a (near) in-the-round performance, the cast’s spatial awareness and performance skills have really been put to the test, but they have leapt gracefully over the hurdle that we presented them with. With only a few weeks of rehearsals after auditions, it has been an intense, energetic and hilarious creative process, during which the production team and cast have been incredible; their effort has been greatly appreciated. I hope that the production will be as enjoyable to watch as it has been to create!

‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’ will be performed in Kenworthy Hall, St Mary’s College, on the 12th, 13th, 14th November 2021 at 8:30pm.

Photo credits: Alicia Bickerstaff