Lady Windermere’s Fan at St Albans’ Abbey Theatre

OSCAR Wilde’s comedy of manners Lady Windermere’s Fan launches the Company of Ten’s new season at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans from next Friday, September 14.

Society scandal and intrigue are at the heart of Lady Windermere’s Fan, which tells the story of a young wife’s shattered trust in her husband as his secretive involvement with a mysterious widow intensifies,

Wilde’s wicked wit is much in evidence as well as his catty yet comic epigrams.

But director Roger Scales says there is much more to Wilde than his ready quotes. He said: “History seems to have decreed that Oscar Wilde is to be one of the most misunderstood men of his time. Perhaps because his flamboyance hid his extraordinarily discerning eye for the deceit, hypocrisy and corruption with which late Victorian society was riddled; partly because few seem to recognise that he was himself an honest and intensely moral person; and maybe because he had such a huge personality that it seemingly overshadowed the depth of understanding he had for the human condition and his awareness of the injustice inherent in the mores of society.”

Roger is convinced that the cosy, genteel Victoriana of so many productions of Wilde’s plays and the unquestioning glee with which his epigrams are received by modern audiences do not do his works justice. Nor are the issues he confronts peculiar to late Victorian society.

He went on: “For this reason we have located the play in the Roaring Twenties when society had similar values but when people were more extravagant in both dress and manners and, to an extent, when they had more to lose.

“Marital infidelity, once out in the open, had just the same social stigma as in the time the play was written. The poverty that could have such disastrous consequences was still a terrible leveller. The battle of the sexes was perhaps even more cut-throat and mercenary.

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“But the fear of all this was hidden from a glittering society and the seriousness of what could happen masked by small talk and outward correctness.”

Performances run until September 22 in the Abbey Theatre’s main auditorium. Tickets can be obtained from or call the box office on 01727 857861.