The brilliant reviews for An Ideal Husband made me particularly excited to see the play. As the programme comments: Oscar Wilde‘s play is a “stylish critique of politicians and social morality”. I was immediately reminded of the J. B. Priestley play I saw a few weeks earlier, When we are Married. Both productions have a Victorian grandeur and an eloquent comedic buzz.
The action happens over 48 hours when a devastating political scandal about successful Government minister, Sir Robert Chilton is brought about by the conniving Mrs Cheveley. A secret from the distant past manages to turn all their lives upside down, with agonisingly hilarious consequences.
Elliot Cowan is absolutely delightful as the smug Viscount Goring. The play is a mixture of serious subject matter and farcical script and Cowan captures this combination beautifully. He strides about the stage with an air of calm charisma; he is clearly enjoying himself and that makes him very likeable. Rachael Stirling is powerful as the “ideal wife” Lady Chiltern, but I found her a tad irritating to watch after a while. I was pleased to see Fiona Button as the chirpy Miss Mabel Chiltern, I previously saw her in TV series Lip Service and she interacts adorably with Cowan. Samantha Bond causes a stir as blackmailing Mrs Cheveley, known for her part in the Bond films, she is a familiar face to the audience. She occasionally stumbled over her words but was impressive and commands attention in her glorious gowns.
An Ideal Husband continues at The Vaudeville Theatre until 19 Feb 2011, book An Ideal Husband tickets here.