Vaudeville Theatre, London – until 14 July 2018
Classic Spring’s latest production features some lovely performances but is just lacking in sharpness to make the most of the witty dialogue.
Directed by Jonathan Church, An Ideal Husband is a wonderful, warm and affectionate production – yet somehow is lacking slightly in sparkle and sharpness to make it truly satisfying.
When Sir Robert Chiltern (Nathaniel Parker) is blackmailed by Mrs Cheveley (Frances Barber) over the origins of his career and fortune, what follows is a playful and engaging story filled with chaos and confusion that makes for delightful viewing – even if at times in Church’s production the energy can be a bit lax in places, particularly in the first act as knowledge of Sir Robert’s past deeds begins to become clearer which could be sharpened up more.
The production only really feels as though it comes to life when the truth of Sir Robert’s past is revealed to Lady Chiltern (Sally Bretton), leading to a brilliantly dramatic and heartfelt scene between Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern that feels raw and emotional to watch. It is the moments of confrontation that occur that really give the production its chance to shine as the characters confront each other’s flaws in terms of their gender, offering real insight that could still perhaps resonate to audiences today.
But while the power behind the story might be lacking at times in the production, it is certainly lovely to look at, thanks to Simon Higlett’s gorgeous and luxurious set which fully brings to life the glamour of the world which Oscar Wilde has created in the play and is the perfect way to watch the story unfold.
The production’s other strength is the way in which it highlights the female characters, making them almost dominate proceedings, drawing out equally strong performances from the female members of the cast that are delightful to watch.
Leading the way is Frances Barber as the manipulative Mrs Cheveley. The way in which she subtly mocks and sneers at those who she is trying to get her own way with is particularly delightful to watch – never holding back in her performance. There is also a lovely performances from Faith Omole as Miss Mabel Chiltern, who particularly in her conversations with Viscount Goring (Freddie Fox) is confident and commanding in the role.
Freddie Fox as Viscount Goring is wonderfully flamboyant and at times pompous, delivering his lines with flair and great humour that he is enjoyable to watch – particularly when he realises of the sticky situation he finds himself in with Sir Robert and Mrs Cheveley at his home. Meanwhile, his real life father Edward Fox as the Earl of Caversham is wonderfully dry witted and a delight to watch when he is on stage.
There is certainly no faulting any of the cast’s performances or the look of the production as a whole, but it feels as though Jonathan Church’s production is just lacking in that little bit of extra sparkle to make Oscar Wilde’s dialogue really shine and standout. A lightly entertaining watch.