WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2
WHERE: Vaudeville Theatre
WHEN: 20/4, press night 3/5, runs to 14/7/18
There are 3 compelling reasons to see this production: Frances Barber, Freddie Fox (pictured above) and Oscar Wilde.
- Read on for reasons including why this is the best of Classic Spring’s Wilde season so far
We’re at the first preview of this penultimate production from the Classic Spring Company’s Oscar Wilde season and you can read our reviews of A Woman Of No Importance and Lady Windermere’s Fan on this site.
An Ideal Husband is a different beast to its predecessors and the claim by director Jonathan Kent in the programme that it is the author’s ‘best dramatic work’ finds much evidence to back it up here.
It opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 2 January 1895 and tells the story of politician Sir Robert Chiltern who is much admired but faces disgrace when a secret from his past is exposed by Mrs Cheveley (Frances Barber, a scream in a scene-stealing role where she is savouring the devastating lines she drops like grenades whenever she appears).
We last saw Barber at the Park Theatre opposite Miriam Margolyes in the much-underrated Madame Rubinstein and her star turn here underlines why she is one of our funniest comic actresses.
It is perhaps a little unfair of us to review this 1st preview and we are joined in the audience by Dominic Dromgoole who is Classic Spring’s Artistic Director and has masterminded what is shaping up to be one of our favourite seasons of this year.
One of our reasons why we think Husband is probably the season’s highlight so far is that the quality of the writing is turned up a notch from what we have seen so far. The more serious plot is a challenge that Wilde rises to and especially fine is the character of Viscount Goring who appears insubstantial but is actually the most moral on the stage, outshining the public’s choice who is Chiltern.
We last saw Fox in his Olivier-nominated supporting role inTravesties and he is in similar outstanding form here incorporating modern dance moves and gestures into a role guaranteed to make you smile.
His relationship with the Earl of Caversham (played by his real-life father Edward Fox) is a comic highlight. The latter continually annoyed by the perceived fecklessness of the former. The chemistry between them is a joy to behold.
We singled out the musical interludes as the highlights of the two previous productions and although they are less memorable here, An Ideal Husband is the perfect prelude to the importance of the comedy that brings this fabulous season to its finish.