OSCAR Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, first seen in 1895, centered on blackmail and political corruption and packed with typical bon mots, comes from the West End to Bath for the first play of the Theatre Royal’s summer season, until 4th August.
Not only is the production opulently set and star-studded, but director Jonathan Church takes a fresh look at the story from the perspective of the title character. The Ideal Husband is Viscount Goring, so often performed as nothing more than a witty Wildean fop. Here, not only is Freddie Fox giving a show-stopping performance, but also a new angle to the familiar story, and it’s a total treat.
Simon Higlett’s set, all mirrors and brocade, frames the action as the scheming Mrs Cheveley (the excellent Frances Barber, taking no prisoners) alights into the lives of Sir Robert Chiltern and his uncompromisingly virtuous wife, with blackmail in mind and light fingers to aid her quest.
The audience enjoys the father and son act of Edward Fox and son Freddie – Lord Caversham blusteringly berating his son Goring and the younger man ridiculing his stuffy pater with blissful abandon.
Susan Hampshire makes the most of her scene-stealing moment as Lady Markby. Poor Chiltern (Nathaniel Parker) is trapped by his decent desire to please his exacting wife.
An Ideal Husband is full of Wildean quotes, and this production exemplifies how great comedy can be in period but never dated.
Freddie Fox’s multi layered and balletically energetic performance is a lasting treasure. Don’t miss the chance to see it at Bath.