Interview: Kevin Bishop on Lady Windermere's Fan

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Inspired by the ‘superb’ Samantha Spiro (Guardian) and ‘dashingly funny’ Kevin Bishop (The Times), you won’t want to miss Kathy Burke’s ‘vividly fresh’ (Metro) revival of Lady Windermere’s Fan, only until 7 April at the Vaudeville Theatre.

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Kevin Bishop tells us more...


How would you describe Lady Windermere's Fan?

It is a story that gets blown out of proportion by gossip.  Lady Windermere is a young woman in love with Lord Windermere and from putting stories together she ends up accusing him of having an affair.  It's about not listening to gossip and really I hadn't better say much more otherwise I'll tell you the entire plot! That's the message of the play anyway.  The morality of it still holds up today, reputation is a key theme.


How accessible is the play, it's Oscar Wilde isn't it?

Well Oscar Wilde is not Shakespeare. The dialect is the same, they say "one" quite often and there is a rhythm to the lines.  You can't paraphrase the script, as an actor you soon realise how important it is to get it absolutely right. Kathy Burke, the Director, went through the original draft and she took out all of the repetition. You have to remember this play is 126 years old and back then, there would be four intervals and the whole thing would be completely raucous with people throwing cabbages and all sorts! So Kathy stripped out the repetition but she kept in the asides.  Some of the actors like that and others less so, personally I don't mind doing the asides at all. You know, this is when the actor takes a moment to explain what's going on which I don't think is a bad thing.  It's a quick play, it's a couple of hours with an interval and it feels fast.

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The cast is incredible, how are you finding working with Jennifer Saunders?

Oh I think she must have been so intimidated working with me but she's just about alright now! No you know, she's a real comedy icon.  In the past year I'll have worked with Paul Whitehouse, Harry Enfield, Kathy Burke and now Jennifer. These people are comedy heroes, it's incredible.  Jennifer is so down to earth and so lovely and I think sometimes it surprises people.  People expect her to be on all the time, but she's just so humble and down to earth. She's lovely to work with and she brings so much to her role, she is so funny. Some of the visual gags she's created are brilliant, she's so talented the whole cast is.


How are you finding doing eight shows a week?

Theatre is really, really hard work. It's the rehearsals that are hard actually, they take so much work and I don't live in London so you're going back and forth on a train and having long days and it is exhausting. Once it's up and running it's the easy bit, it's fun.  I would choose theatre over tv or film any day, it is such a joy.  The sad thing is if you're not in the West End, people don't get paid well at all to do theatre and it's a real sad thing.   Theatre is the best thing in the world.

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It's just come out in the news that Porridge won't be returning to BBC One. What reaction have you had from fans?

Well I've known since Christmas.  The thing is the writers, Dick and Ian are in their eighties and I don't think they even wanted to write a series to be honest, I think they were happy to do the special and leave it at that.  They were pissed off I think that people kept comparing it to the original, they never wanted it to be a rehash of the original. The BBC insisted that they basically kept the characters and the stories and actually they wanted to write something completely fresh in many ways, but the BBC wouldn't have it.  They're much better writers than that.   The reaction has been interesting, when it was on, it was getting four million viewers every week. The live audience up in Salford were watching this show about a Southener and they laughed so much it actually made the editing really challenging.   It is a shame, I loved doing it and most of all Dick and Ian are incredible and I'm glad the people watching enjoyed it as much as they did.


What's next for you after Lady Windermere?

I'm back doing what I miss doing which is writing my own projects again, it's been so long.  For me, writing a character yourself is so satisfying so I'm really looking forward to doing more writing as opposed to playing characters other people have come up with.

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Your Farage special was great though.

Yes you know I think because of Star Stories and The Kevin Bishop Show people think I'm an impersonator, but I'm not at all. With those shows it was about taking the essence of somebody's character not doing a straight impersonation. With Farage it was a lot of work and I couldn't quite get him until he left UKIP and he was doing an interview and watching it, he said everything with a physical headbutt to punctuate his points and once I got that and started smoking to really get the voice, that was it.

It was so good! Enjoy the rest of Lady Windermere's Fan and we look forward to seeing what you do next.


Lady Windermere's Fan is booking until April 7 2018. Click here for tickets.