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A Woman of No Importance review at New Vic Newcastle-under-Lyme

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It would be unthinkable these days to base a contemporary play on the shocking reverberations of a woman giving birth out of wedlock. But it was a very different matter when Oscar Wilde penned this bittersweet tale of a woman scorned, which was first produced in1893. Back then, polite Victorian society would not tolerate such behaviour – at least not publicly – and the offending female would be banished and/or forced to keep her ‘sin’ a secret. It’s a moving study of Victorian double standards by which women are punished for their sins and men applauded for theirs.

Mrs Arbuthnot, the central character, is beautifully portrayed by Janice McKenzie, whose hand-wringing, emotionally charged performance is carefully underplayed and all the better for it. She successfully embodies the guilt, anger and frustration of a loving mother who dare not tell her son that his would-be employer, successful society playboy Lord Illingworth, is his father.

Jonathan Coote makes a convincing Illingworth, Dylan Williams is impressive as his son Gerald and Tina Gray’s Lady Hunstanton is a hoot. Juliette Goodman effectively manages to make Gerald’s American girlfriend Hester both ice-cool and feisty.

The second act is largely played out over the conclusion of a game of billiards and the stage hands deserve credit for the swift removal of the full-sized table. But the real star of the show is, of course, Wilde’s wonderful script, deliciously laced with all those quotable quotes. Happily, the cast delivers his lines perfectly, making this an extremely satisfying production.

Production Information

New Vic, Newcastle-under-Lyme , June 25-July 17

Oscar Wilde
Gwenda Hughes
New Vic
Cast includes
Janice McKenzie, Jonathan Coote, Dylan Williams, Juliette Goodman
Running time
2hrs 40mins

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