AN IDEAL HUSBAND
by Oscar Wilde.
Vaudeville Theatre The Strand WC2 To 19 February 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
no perf 24 Dec 7.30pm, 25 Dec additional performances 24, 31 Dec 2.30pm.
Runs: 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 412 4663.
Review: Carole Woddis 9 November.
Oscar magic very much alive; and a stunning Bond performance.
What magic Oscar Wilde still weaves, what resonance his plays still carry. This star-studded revival of his final play proves yet again that when it comes to satirising and exposing the double standards of our ruling classes Wilde is way ahead of the field.
An Ideal Husband pits political ambition against personal happiness and shows how the two can only happily reside through compromise and acknowledgement of the human flaws in all of us. Think family values, think politician’s expenses. Their precursors and warnings are all here. But that the play can still succeed today in such different times is testimony to the sheer subversive brilliance of its dialogue and Wilde’s bridging of ridicule with seriousness.
Of course, we do also seem still to be half in love with our ruling classes of bygone years, if only because they dressed so well. – Downton Abbey anyone?
To do Wilde justice, though, you must also have actors not only at home in stiff morning-coats and corsets but also capable of delivering those bons mots with ease and spirit.
Lindsay Posner’s opulent, fin de siècle production (a mountain of gold-leaf from designer Stephen Brimson Lewis) boasts one dazzling stand-out performance, a handful of ably supporting ones and one wincing miscast.
In Lord Goring, the intermediary in the affairs of Tory Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Sir Robert Chiltern, his wife and the dangerous Mrs Cheveley, we have a barely disguised Wilde self-portrait. Peter Hall’s 1996 revival carried a definitive Goring in Martin Shaw – louche, indolently decadent and wise. Elliot Cowan, a gallery favourite, oozing square-jawed machismo is an interesting choice and disastrous.
Notwithstanding that peculiar rush to the head by the producers (box office, dear boy, box office), this production will be remembered for the Mrs Cheveley of Samantha Bond. Dressed to kill in glittering black or stunning aquamarine, Bond is thrilling and terrifying – a match for any man. Making every word count, her femme fatale is a deus ex machine, embodying society’s ravaging lust for revenge and perception of life – even love – as a series of hardheaded business transactions. Great.
The Earl of Caversham: Charley Kay.
Viscount Goring: Elliot Cowan.
Sir Robert Chiltern, Bart: Alexander Hanson.
Vicomte de Nanjac: Tom Mothersdale.
Mr Montford: Philip Desmeules.
Mason: Derek Howard.
Phipps: Max Digby.
James: George Beach.
Harold: Philip Desmeules.
Lady Chiltern: Rachel Stirling.
Lady Markby: Caroline Blakiston.
The Countess of Basildon: Gemma Page.
Lord Barford: George Beach.
Lady Barford: Jane Dowden.
Mrs Marchmont: Tor Clark.
Duchess of Maryborough: Carmen Rodriguez.
Miss Mabel Chiltern: Fiona Button.
Mrs Cheveley: Samantha Bond.
Director: Lindsay Posner.
Designer: Stephen Brimson Lewis.
Lighting: Peter Mumford.
Sound: Gareth Owen.
Composer: Matthew Scott.
Dialect coach: Jan Haydn-Rowles.