Posner's revival of this Oscar Wilde classic captures more of the play
more successfully than any previous production I've seen, offering
entertainment on more levels than a season of lesser plays might.
part serious drama, part lush melodrama, part brittle wit comedy, part
French farce. Most directors take the easy route, emphasising the
comedy and treating the serious plot as a necessary evil to be rushed
through as quickly as possible.
Posner and his
strong cast play the drama and melodrama at full force, making them so
theatrically compelling that the comedy and farce almost - almost -
seem like tacked-on afterthoughts.
rich and rising
politician is blackmailed over a financial indiscretion of his past, a
crisis intensified by the fact that his wife is rectitude personified
and surely could not love him if she learned of his
Hovering around the edges is a Wildean dandy tossing off epigrams but
also helping his friend out of his difficulty while also getting into a
couple of farcical situations of his own.
star of the
show is Samantha Bond as the blackmailer but, as powerful and alluring
an actress as she is, I found her performance a little too overtly and
single-mindedly villainous, without the charm and sensuality that would
make her character dangerously attractive and thus far more dangerous.
honours go to Rachael Stirling as the stiff-backed wife, who makes her
scenes of outraged rectitude and unwavering moral certainty the most
powerful of the evening.
may be awfully
close to soap opera stuff, but Stirling and director Posner play it as
if it were Shakespeare, and it works - total commitment to the purple
passions and purple prose sucks us right into the reality of the play
in a way the mere lip service or ironic distancing of other productions
strong - and yes, you cannot help but see and hear her mother in every
moment and particularly in the emotional power of her acting - that she
all but wipes Alexander Hanson as her husband off the stage. Buffeted
about as he is by both Samantha Bond's and Rachael Stirling's
characters, Hanson's politician can hardly help coming across as a bit
of a wimp, certainly one who never really has control over his own
Cowan as the
dandy suffers a little from the unexpected power of the serious plot,
since his character is not given free rein to steal the show with his
insouciance and throwaway wit as is frequently the case, but has to
fight for our attention. He does so successfully, though you can
sometimes see the actor working at being funny, which of course weakens
Caroline Blakiston does effortlessly steal one scene as a society dowager commenting with bemused wit on the world around her, Charles Kay is droll as a disapproving-of-just-about-everything elder, and Fiona Button is charming as the level-headed girl who is exactly who the dandy should marry.
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- An Ideal Husband - Vaudeville 2010