In period setting, the cast swan around the simple yet ornate Victorian stage sets in bustle dresses, bonnets, tails and floral waistcoats conceived by stage Designer Simon Higlett. But Wilde’s perceptive exploration of familial and romantic relationships, morality and forgiveness render An Ideal Husband surprisingly contemporary. Interchange government minister Sir Robert Chiltern’s ‘Suez canal scandal’ with any modern-day political ‘blackmail’ or ‘expenses’ scandal and we could be watching a modern day drama.
That’s until the onslaught of Wilde’s sharp witticisms and trademark skewing of upper class Victorian society remind us of its somewhat dated ideals. The cast keep it fresh, though, with their spot-on comedy timing and first-class performances.
With her strident voice and bellowing chuckles, Frances Barber excels as Machiavellian Mrs Cheveley. A blast from Sir Robert’s shady past, Mrs Cheveley makes it her mission to disgrace Sir Robert and his very proper wife, Lady Chiltern. Dressed in white, with calm and sensible manners, Lady Chiltern, played by Sally Bretton, is Cheveley’s perfect opposite. It makes for pleasing balance, and a lot of good laughs.
Susan Hampshire, as sharp-tongued Lady Markby, executes her string of social quips with perfection. However, it's self-indulgent Goring who triggers the bellows of riotous laughter from the audience throughout the play.
While it can feel like an exercise in nostalgia at times, the strong performances drive the plot with pleasing pace. A charming, delightful revival, Wilde's An Ideal Husband still holds the power to entertain.
|What||Review: An Ideal Husband, Vaudeville Theatre|
|Where||Vaudeville Theatre, 404 Strand, London, WC2R 0NH | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
20 Apr 18 – 14 Jul 18, Tuesday – Saturday 19:30, Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday matinees 14:30
|Price||£22.42 - £63.25|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|