Plus another half point for the performances, making 3.5! When I first saw this play, in a production by Peter Hall c.15 years ago, it fizzed; so much so that I went back to see it again when it returned to London after an extensive tour. It seemed to me to be so much better than the play most consider his best – The Importance of Being Ernest. For reasons I cannot fathom, in Lindsay Posner’s production the first half is ponderously slow – one of the longest ‘set up’s’ I can remember – whilst the second half zips along.
Oscar Wilde’s play may be 115 years old but if you ignore the settings and costumes, its thoroughly modern – unlike contemporaries like Chekhov or Ibsen, it has hardly aged. The story is rather timely – a corrupt act in the past comes back to haunt a rising star politician. The morals of the case are explored as the events unfold, but with Wilde’s usual sharp wit, satirising the upper classes along the way. Stephen Brimson-Lewis’ opulent gold set becomes three different rooms in the same house and with the insertion of a simple green wall transforms into a room in another house. With superb period costumes, it looks gorgeous and seems to me to capture the time and the society of the protagonists perfectly.
What makes this revival is brilliant casting. Samantha Bond is a suitably icy Mrs Cheveley, Rachel Sterling (looking mote like her mother than she ever has before) a moralistic Lady Chiltern and Alexander Hanson a somewhat ernest archetypal politician with an ability to change his stance and rationalise it seamlessly. The star of the show though is Elliott Cowan’s Viscount Goring, a brilliant and witty creation in full flight, and there are lovely cameos from Charles Kay, Caroline Blakiston and Fiona Button.
Such a shame the first two acts didn’t have the pace of the second two, but worth a look nonetheless.
- Gareth James
17 Jan 11
This is a very good play but, as frequently occurs, when seen at a matinee, the cast appear to be anxious to get it over and done with so that they can get their feet up before the evening performance. The director needs to pull them up because the text is very witty but not only must the audience be given a little time to get the jokes but the cast must actually act and not recite their lines in turn. Galloping through the script does nobody credit. Beautiful sets, wonderful lighting and costumes - Samantha Bond's body consciousness is terrific - elegance in every gesture. - Rebekkah
12 Jan 11
Lindsay Posner presents a magnificently staged and superbly acted revival of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband and yet I left feeling strangely dissatisfied. For once Wilde's flow of epigramatic wit seems forced, particularly in a play which could be described as a political thriller. The final act is contrived and Mrs. Chevely, brilliantly played by Samantha Bond, gives up her machinations too easily and disappears prematurely at the end of Act III. Those problems lie with the play itself but it is difficult to imagine how it could be done any better than this. - David Baxter
09 Dec 10
A GREAT EVENING OUT,VERY WITTY AND LOTS OF TWISTS AND TURNS.A SHADE LONG TO START BUT YOU HAVE TO INTRODUCE A VARIETY OF CHARACTERS.SAMANTHA BOND IS A VERY NASTY "BADDY" - STEVE
16 Nov 10
Guess, I saw a different production. The cast were forgetting their lines or saying the wrong words. Very disappointed in a production I had high hopes for. - KQ
16 Nov 10
Superb, Oscar would have enjoyed it. - Barry
15 Nov 10
I loved this play. Very sumptuous, very Wilde. A very good night out - HB
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