10:36 | 19th February 2019

Reviews: Live Shows

Sat 8 May, 2010
By Robert Ingham

This production from Candy King Theatre is rather wonderful, with superb performances throughout...

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An Ideal Husband - Theatre Review

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An Ideal Husband, Oscar Wilde’s comedy about blackmail and political corruption, comes to the Greenwich Playhouse for a month long run. The show, touching on personal and public honour and the lengths people would go to to protect it, has really hit its stride having opened on 27th April and is thoroughly recommended.

Opening at a dinner party thrown by Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern, the first act revolves around guests Lord Goring, his father Lord Caversham, two Upper Class ladies and Lady Chiltern’s arch-nemesis from school, Mrs Cheveley, who has come to blackmail Robert into condoning a project he has vehemently protested against, a project she has invested a great deal of money into. Sir Robert’s massive fortune comes from a dodgy dealing 18 years previously and she has proof which she will use to destroy his reputation unless he says the project is above board.

Lord Goring is Robert’s best friend, and he sets out to bring the woman’s schemes to an end as well as win the woman of his dreams, Mabel Chiltern.

This production from Candy King Theatre is rather wonderful, with superb performances throughout – from the doddery Lord Caversham, played splendidly by Donal Cox whose deep vocals resonate around the intimate space, to Lady Basildon (Lindsey Crow) who, in her only scene, brings pep and spark to the witty script, and I was hoping to see her again. She and her “partner in crime”, Mrs Marchmont (Clare McMahon) are two little minxes, vixens who take no greater pleasure than to use men as toys, particularly their husbands, and they start the play off with great humour.

However, An Ideal Husband is really about Lord Goring, a charmingly arrogant and handsome layabout, happy to be the male Paris Hilton of his day. As he puts it “it’s always nice to be expected but not arrive”. Peter Rae brings the character to vivid life with spectacular comic timing, nuance and subtle facial expressions that demand your attention whenever he is on stage. The scenes with his father stand out particularly as they banter about the dullness of a normal life, culminating in one of the best lines – “conceited little puppy!”

The entire cast is strong, although I did feel that Kate Sandison, playing Lady Chiltern, was a little stilted and her voice didn’t have the same gravitas as the other characters. Having said that, Kate’s emotional outburst over her husband’s deceit was brilliantly controlled and if she can cry like that every night then there is a talent in itself.

I have to say that the action really picks up after the interval, with some genuinely hilarious one-liners, especially as the first act feels like an encyclopaedia of thoughts has been put into the script. It all feels a little narcissistic but this seems to be standard in Wilde’s works.

This is a must-see show, with a simple effective set, stunning costumes and great direction from Maria Chiorando. The only downside is the seating, on three sides, which sometimes means you cannot always see the performers. However, this doesn’t detract from this smashing production, which draws as much relevance in today’s society as it did when it was first performed.

An Ideal Husband is at the Greenwich Playhouse until 23rd May. Tickets £12/£10.


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