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Director Donna Wood Oscar Wilde's "AN IDEAL HUSBAND"

ACTS review

Oscar Wilde’s play is about Victorian morals, a comedy of manners. The principle character, Viscount Goring, is a fictionalised caricature of Wilde himself. In this production, only his top hat and cape were missing. The story has a plot full of contrivances including a letter from the past, and a bracelet with a secret clasp. The heart of the play is in its relationships.

A splendid box set with a central staircase depicted the wealth of the Sir Robert Chiltern. The costumes, while not always quite appropriate, displayed the fashion of the day. The lighting and sound added to the overall presentation of this drama.

The director captured the essence of Wilde’s stylish wit; the pace of the piece was never laboured. Attention to detail was good, but maybe there were just some small niggling aspects missing. However, the all-important relationships were believable.

The play opens at the Grosvenor Square home of the Chiltern’s. There we meet an array of characters. Lady Markby – Chris Lovelady, Countess of Basildon – Kay Unsworth, Mrs Marchmont – Angela Grime, Mr Montford – Karl Gerrard, Duchess of Marlborough – Pauline Dowsett,Lady Jane Barford – Debbie Wood and Viscomte De Nanjac – Muhammad Al-Yasseri . Their contributions were important and set the accent of the social high ground of 1895 London.

Upstairs staff was needed to pamper the guests, Luke Ellam took his duties as Mason seriously looking after the élite of London’s society.

Faced with public ruin, Robert Chiltern is a man who is very much in love with his wife. The role was brought to life by Paul Jameson. Paul gave a sincere performance and in so doing proved we should accept our loved ones without judgement.

Playing Lady Chilton was an actress of experience who allowed the dialogue to “do its job”. Pauline Nevell knows how to phrase a line, and in so doing brought truth and believability to the new Victorian liberated woman.

Mabel is the Chiltern’s daughter who eventually is engaged to Goring. There is no real depth to the character, which could be the attraction for Robert Goring. Jennifer Costello, as the uncomplicated Mabel Chiltern, conveyed her innocence and charm.

The dark angel descends on the party in the guise of Mrs. Cheveley. She is unconventional, self-opinionated and doesn’t care what people say about her. Clare Nash played the calculating, blackmailing villain with wit, and with that all-important soupcon of venom.

The Earl of Caversham is Viscount Goring’s father. He is from the old school of politics. a foil for the actor playing his son. This allowed plenty of movement for the actor to characterise the old public servant. This was “meat on the plate” for David Hodgkinson who amusingly blustered and huffed his way through his scenes.

Trapped by expectation, Robert Goring is the busiest character in the play having to display the Victorian dandy, the wit, the compassion and the seriousness of the man. Darran Nash, in his first leading role, accomplished it all. The Wilde’s style of dialogue, body language of Robert, was neatly displayed. The accurate timing of the lines essential for any Wilde play, was well observed

It easy to see why this play, after all this time, is so popular: As Jorge Luis Borges said in one of his essays, “the fundamental flavour of Wilde’s work is happiness

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