Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband” – Still fresh and funny

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Posted by May B on Thursday 26th of April 2018




It’s amazing how this play manages to still feel so fresh and relevant – no doubt this is helped by Jonathan Church’s direction. The themes of morality, integrity and politicians resonate strongly in today’s political climate. The insights into love are sometimes searing in their intensity. The play straddles drama, romance and farce.

The script is beautiful, crisp and witty. The play contains some of my favourite Wilde quotes including:

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”
“The strength of women comes from the fact that psychology cannot explain us. Men can be analyzed, women...merely adored.”
“I like looking at geniuses and listening to beautiful people.”
“Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast”

The story focuses on Lord Chiltern’s success, marriage and reputation being threatened as Mrs Chevely attempts to blackmail him over a youthful mistake. The role of his friend Lord Goring in saving the day is supported by a side story of his own love interests.

The costumes, as you would expect, reflect the high society in which the play is set. They are beautiful – sumptuous yet elegant. The set morphs from vast ballroom to sophisticated homes. Wandering waiters provide a background ebb of energy and a violinist creates appropriate pauses between scenes.

It’s a star-studded cast. It was interesting to see real life father and son relationship mirrored on the stage: Edward Fox as Earl of Caversham and Freddie Fox as Lord Goring.

Nathanial Parker as Lord Chiltern and Sally Bretton as Lady Chiltern shone through some impassioned exchanges. The young woman playing a lively Miss Mable was an inspired choice. Susan Hampshire (Lady Markby) gave a surprisingly quiet yet accomplished performance.

Despite the great acting, it was a bit of a stretch to accept the romantic attraction between Frances Barber’s more mature Mrs Cheveley and the fresh-faced Freddie Fox playing Lord Goring. Although it provided a rather different – and more menacing - interpretation of Mrs Cheveley’s character who in other productions has a subtler and more seductive approach.

It’s running in London until 14th July at The Vaudeville Theatre in The Strand.

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