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A CurtainUp London London Review
An Ideal Husband

We women worship when we love; and when we lose our worship, we lose everything. — Lady Chiltern
An Ideal Husband
Samantha Bond as Mrs Cheveley and Alexander Hanson as Sir Robert Chiltern
(Photo: Nobby Clark)
Lindsay Posnerís production of Oscar Wildeís An Ideal Husband features in the main roles real life husband and wife Alexander Hanson as Sir Robert Chiltern and Samantha Bond as Mrs Cheveley, the woman who threatens to bring about the politicianís downfall unless he agrees to her blackmail request. The real hero of Wildeís play is the character based on himself, the witty, erudite, confirmed bachelor, Lord Goring (Elliot Cowan) who will intercede on behalf of his friend and muddy the waters with unintended consequences.

Posnerís interpretation, whilst making the play accessible and modern, loses out in the minor roles when they speak their parts stiltedly and self consciously aware of the importance of delivering Wildeís famous aphorisms. It is only when Samantha Bond arrives on stage that we find Wildeís witticisms delightfully naturally spoken as if we are hearing these well trod phrases for the first time. However by Acts Three and Four, the play has become more pleasurable with the very sexy Elliot Cowan on tip top form, charming in his deep turquoise (an unlikely and daring colour for that era) private library set with adjoining doors. His repartee with Miss Mabel Chiltern (Fiona Button) is an absolute joy as Goring meets his intellectual match!

Just when we are convinced that we are watching Victorian melodrama, we wonder whether Posner was constructing a nod to West end farce when one lady is shown into another room by Goringís manservant. This is not the person Goring was expecting and the confusion complicates the plot as Goring is anxious to protect Lady Chilternís (Rachael Stirling) reputation. However we know that in Wildeís plays noone will be seen running around in their underwear.

Stephen Brimson Lewisís sets are sumptuously over the top, his Chiltern drawing room being covered in gold leaf but with the decayed silvering of old mirrors implying a fustiness of age or maybe a decadence to suit the Naughty Nineties. The chandeliers are of course magnificent as are the intricate costumes.

Rachel Stirling has the hardest role as the incorruptible Lady Chiltern but that merely makes her seem lacking in a sense of humour and less fun to be with. Samantha Bond on the other hand twinkles with attraction, even when she finds the stolen bracelet locked on her wrist. Alexander Hanson is reliable if a bit stuffy as Sir Robert. Caroline Blakistonís long, gossipy, filler, crowd pleasing speech from Lady Markby gets a big hand but has little relevance to the plot. This is Samantha Bond and Elliot Cowanís night with two stellar performances and the opportunist and the deliverer of her comeuppance.

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An Ideal Husband
Written by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Lindsay Posner

Starring: Samantha Bond, Elliot Cowan, Rachael Stirling, Alexander Hanson, Fiona Button, Caroline Blakiston
With: Charles Kay, Tom Mothersdale, Philip Desmeules, Derek Howard, Max Digby, George Beach, Gemma Page, Jane Dowden, Tor Clark, Carmen Rodriguez
Designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis
Lighting: Peter Mumford
Composer: Matthew Scott
sound: Gareth Owen
Running time: Two hours 40 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0844 412 4663
Booking to 19th February 2011
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 15th November 2010 at the Vaudeville Theatre, The Strand, London WC2R 0NH (Rail/Tube: Charing Cross)

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