Review: An Ideal Husband at the Maddermarket Theatre
- Credit: Reflective Arts
Oscar Wilde's political satire is a great favourite of mine. It's such an elegantly and witty study of the way public scandal can impact on private life.
Written just two years before Wilde's own fall from grace, the play could be a rehearsal for the drawing-room dramas he was soon to face. His wife may not have found him an ideal husband either.
And that's the reason that the play pivots on an emotional scene between the couple at its centre.
Politician Sir Robert Chiltern must tell his devoted spouse that he is not the man she thought he was.
Like Wilde, he has a secret in his past. He founded his career on selling a state secret.
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Everything depends on whether or not she can still love him.
With so much resting on her every word, it's a good thing that Jacqueline Du V'en as the wife is so solid in the role.
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She reacts in a straight-forward and serious-minded manner.
Cate Blanchett, playing the same part in the highly entertaining 1999 film, did not hit such a well-judged, uncompromising note.
Reuben Mackness as Sir Robert is perhaps a little too guarded in general, but at this key moment he pulls it out of the bag. Bravo.
Despite their earnest importance, it is not the good guys who get the best lines.
Wicked Mrs Cheveley (Louise Brighton) is bestowed the lion's share of eloquence - and the best frocks, too.
Her sparring partner is Viscount Goring (Steven Scase) a shameless mouthpiece for Wilde, who in this production even looks like him.
Goring also has a most dubious past, but comes good when he makes an equally dubious match (Miss Mabel Chiltern played by Verity Roat).
These shenanigans work themselves out in an extremely satisfactory and humorous manner under the auspices of director Clare Howard.
Set design by Lucinda Bray is rather ingenious, too.
A series of semi-opaque screens work their magic in the background, hinting at hidden whisperers in early night-time scenes and later glowing to illuminate the stage with a brightness and clarity that rival Wilde himself.