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A CurtainUp London Review
An Ideal Husband
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.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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