Lady Windermere’s Fan, booking from 12th January through to 7th April 2018, is part of the current Oscar Wilde Season at the Vaudeville Theatre in London’s West End. David O’Reilly is in the cast and he recently took time out to answer a few questions about Lady Windermere’s Fan.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about being in this production?
David: It is a new process for me having never done a play before. I recently finished a five year run in a show and whilst personally it was very sad to leave, creatively it’s really exciting to be doing something fresh and new. Kathy Burke has created a really special and unique production of this play. It stays true and respectful to its roots and makes heartfelt nods to Oscar Wilde whilst really adding something quite fresh to it. I’m so excited for people to see this play in all its glory, as I’m certain it will blow away any preconceptions people may have of Oscar Wilde or indeed his works.
Q: Which part are you playing and can you tell us about him?
David: I am playing the role of Cecil Graham a friend of Lord and Lady Windermere. He is deeply involved in politics which at the time was starting to shift slightly in British society. My character Cecil is referred to in the play as thinking like a Tory but talking like a Radical. Personally, he likes to stir trouble and has no problem in letting people know his options however offensive or personal they may be. He enjoys pushing peoples buttons, it’s as though he enjoys the risk of it. I’m not entirely sure though how he would react if someone challenged him by intimidation or physically.
Q: How do you go about getting into character when learning your lines?
David: Before rehearsals began I was determined to know all my lines, however, Kathy asked us to refrain from being completely off book. Now having spent time in the rehearsal room, her request makes complete sense. Sometimes as actors we learn the lines and have preconceived ideas of how we should say them or how other actors will say their lines. Kathy reiterated that acting is about listening and reacting. Before we touched on any of the acts we would sit around and read the script, we would then discuss the act and throw around opinions, ideas. It was incredibly insightful, from these discussions and readings I began to look at the play and my character in a completely different light. The fact I was not off book aided me in my rehearsal process with the long-term result hopefully being a somewhat honest and believable performance.
Q: Can you tell us about rehearsals?
David: They have been a real education for me. From the very first day, Kathy set a positive and caring tone. She reminded us all of the Oscar Wilde’s quote “Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.” Like I said earlier we would read and discuss the act and then we would get up and make a mess blocking wise. Kathy has the most incredible way of manipulating a scene to feel and look honest, believable but also staying true to our performance space. It is so interesting to see a director mould logic and truth. We were made feel comfortable and with comfort comes the ability to take risks and make bold choices. Often rehearsals can be a scary time for actors because we just want to get it right. I have really enjoyed the slow-paced rehearsal of a play. For me personally, it’s been great to really look at the text, character and work with this incredible company with the hope of delivering a great story.
Q: How does your character fit into the storyline?
David: Cecil somewhat finds himself in the middle of the madness which occurs from silly and instinctual decisions from other characters. He very much enjoys the art of gossiping and knowing others business except when it contains matters of morality. That he has no time for. He somewhat ignites the beginning of a very important moment which could see certain characters worlds turned upside down, but he does this without even realising it.
Q: What is at the heart of the story of Lady Windermere’s Fan?
David: For me at the heart of the story is love and desire. It’s the love of others that often make people do the silliest of things. This play is no different, we see characters lead themselves upon paths of rocky conclusions. Inevitably the lack of trust and opinions of others takes over the basic foundations of what love stands for. There is a strong theme of desire in this play. In more fickle circumstances some of the characters are lead by their desire for better, a wife, a life.
Q: What do you enjoy most about performing Oscar Wilde’s work?
David: First and foremost the thing I enjoy most about performing Oscar Wilde’s work is the pride of being an Irish man living in London performing and Irish man’s play set in London. His construction of a scene is so exciting. If performed well it’s almost like a song, I know that sounds ridiculous but I was watching Sam Spiro and Grace Molony do the beginning part of Act Three the other day and I was completely overwhelmed and I just remember saying it’s like a song. The words flowed from their mouths and it was so incredible to watch. So to see his scenes coming alive and flowing with the sincerity and comedy they were meant for is something quite incredible.
Q: How are you finding working with this cast and creative team?
David: I am really enjoying it. Kathy has brought together a really amazing team of actors and creatives. I have loved sitting in rehearsals and watching everyone work and create. Every actor should have to do a rehearsal process with Samantha Spiro, she really is a class act. She is a true professional but still retains her sense of humour. Watching her make sense of the play and bring about everyone’s given circumstance has been just wonderful. Grace Molony and Joshua James who play Lady and Lord Windermere are a real partnership and are really giving a true leading man and lady performance. Jennifer Saunders, of course, is an absolute comedy legend. Her comedic timing is second to none. I love Kevin Bishop. He has made me laugh so much and his performance of Lord Darlington is just brilliant, and his breakdown of scenes has also been a real lesson to me. I also got a major excitement from the fact I was working with Joseph Marcell. Joseph is an esteemed actor and has played many a wonderful role. He will kill me for this but I was so excited to work with Geoffrey the Butler from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Joseph is a true gentleman and a real pro. The whole cast are a real team of pros. Working with Kathy Burke is a real dream come true. I, like most, was a huge fan of Kathy’s, randomly it wasn’t Gimme Gimme or Kevin and Perry Go Large that I have my first memories of her it’s the film Dancing at Lughnasa. I really am loving working with Kathy, she’s a boss and has such a wonderful way of commanding the room and rehearsals. She makes perfect sense of even the most confusing of scenes and can make you rethink your choices in one sentence. She cares so much about this play and its actors. In return, her associate and assistant Matt Harrison has an equally admiring love for this show and the work required. Equally exciting is the Set and Costume design for the show, Paul Wills has really captured the essence of the show and Kathy’s vision as has Shane Cullinan who has composed fantastic music to really set this wonderful play.
Q: Why should everyone get along to see Lady Windermere’s Fan?
David: Everyone should see Lady Windermere’s Fan because it has heart and passion and a message that is relevant to today. It will give you an evening of escapism and laughs in abundance. The cast really are an incredibly diverse bunch of actors. Lastly, the Classic Spring season is such a unique and bold choice of plays that are rarely revived, so come and enjoy the wit and class of Wilde, the sophistication of Paul Wills’ designs, the elegance of Shane Cullinan’s compositions, incredible performances from one of the most passionate casts, and the brilliance and thoughtfulness of Kathy Burke’s direction.
Lady Windermere’s Fan is part of Classic Spring’s year-long celebration of Oscar Wilde at the Vaudeville Theatre.
The full cast comprises Victoria Blunt, Natasha Magigi, Ami Metcalf, Grace Molony, Charlie Mulliner, Siân Polhill-Thomas, Jennifer Saunders, Samantha Spiro, Kevin Bishop, Matthew Darcy, Roger Evans, Joshua James, Joseph Marcell, David O’Reilly, Benedict Salter and Gary Shelford.
Lady Windermere’s Fan
Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Kathy Burke
Designed by Paul Wills
Composed by Shane Cullinan
Lighting by Paul Keoghan
Sound by John Leonard
LADY WINDEMERE’S FAN
Booking Period: Friday 12th January 2018 – Saturday 7th April 2018
Age guidance: 8+
Vaudeville Theatre, London