BWW Interview: ELLIE NUNN Talks About Playing 'Lady Windermere'
A new revival of Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan, opening at the King's Head, is transported to the 1930s and set in the Jazz Age against the backdrop of the fashionable high society, and the evocative jazz music of the era.
BroadwayWorld catches up with Ellie Nunn, who plays the eponymous heroine, to find out what draws her to such a character.
"I think what attracted me most to the part of Lady Windermere was how uninhibited she is in both her dialogue and behaviour, that she refuses to censor herself in arguments, I think she has a tremendous amount of bite as a character. Over the course of the play Lady Windermere experiences such a wide range of emotions, and they completely envelop her, she loses herself in them, and I think that's a gift to perform. Also she doesn't have a wealth of experience behind her, she's still learning a lot about herself and about life, which I felt was very similar to myself."
· "I came in to the production knowing I wanted to bring out the feistier side of Lady Windermere and banish images of a sweet, innocent little girl with ringlets; I wanted to find the teenager in her, and the temper and stubbornness that go with it. Linnie (the director) and I also began to find a somewhat unsophisticated and awkward quality in the character, born out of her naivety. It's been so interesting to explore the more childish side of the character, I think it makes her more human."
On the importance of Fringe Theatre and acting in smaller, more intimate spaces:
" I think that the joy of performing a play like this at a venue such as The Kings Head is that it forces the actors to find a very human quality in their characters and to really focus on the truthfulness behind what their saying. With an audience that close there's nowhere to hide, you're very exposed. In an intimate space I think it's very easy for the audience to spot a phoney performance. I also think that fringe venues bring out the best in a cast offstage, there's no glamour in it, you all cram in to one dressing room and get on with it. I think it can eliminate the ego so often associated with actors and brings a cast closer together."
One wonders how one copes with the costume changes in such a small intimate dressing room, but Ellie is more keen to talk about the costumes themselves. Playing the pivotal role she is quite keen to have a say in how she is dressed.
"Having worn pillowcases, potato sacks, and a polystyrene celery stick costume over the years, I was keen to make a couple of suggestions to the costume designer! I think costume plays such a key role when finding a character, it so affects your physicality and can often be the springboard in to finding a fully formed person. I wanted to steer away from Lady Windermere wearing all white and looking too virginal, but otherwise costume decisions came from discussions together and ultimately I trust what I'm given will work best."
There is an argument that Oscar Wilde's text cannot be taken out of its Victorian context; but this production looks set to destroy that idea by successfully planting into the 1930s Jazz Age. The themes Wilde deals with are timeless, though Ellie does qualify this by wondering whether the character would stand up in today's society.
"In today's world I think it has become more and more widely accepted that a woman would leave her husband and child if she was unhappy, especially if she thought he was unfaithful to her, and in a world of celebrity gossip and tabloid journalism it would be almost impossible for all of the secrets dotted throughout the play to remain private. I imagine there would be more communication now than there was then, a letter plays such an integral part of this play, where now she may have just sent a text..."
At which point her phone beeps as a text arrives - from her director summoning her back into the rehearsal room.
"LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN" opens at the King's Head Theatre on Tuesday 5th August running until 23rd August.
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