Pros: Witty lines and actors with comedic talent will make you laugh out loud.
Cons: It would have benefited from a clearer time setting and a more elaborate design.
Putting an Oscar Wilde play on stage seems to be a safe bet. The geniality of his writing is undeniable and will never fail to amuse an attentive listener. In An Ideal Husband Wilde mocks the Victorian upper class society, pointing out the flaws and mistakes they are trying to hide.
Sir Robert Chiltern (Doug Cooper) is a well respected member of the London high society, a successful politician, a loving husband and – in David Phipps-Davis’ take on the play – also a father. He is adored by his wife Gertrude (Kathryn Hamilton-Hall) and his daughter Mabel (Sara Langridge). Getrude sees in him the ideal husband until an unexpected guest at their dinner party (Laura Rutland as Laura Cheveley) threatens to reveal a dark secret from his past. Robert has to make a decision whether to give in to the blackmailing and save his wealth and reputation or to keep his moral integrity. Tabard Theatre Smart Productions aims to modernise Wilde’s play and show that its critical comment on society is still as valid as it was in 1893 when it was written.
Although most of the actors wore modern costumes I couldn’t quite figure out the era the play was set in. Props and acting didn’t do much to help me answer the question because there were inconsistencies. The butler (Scott Westwood) was called with an electronic bell and Frankie Meredith as the maid wore oversized glasses, but then women were greeted with a kiss on the hand and sat down on an antique looking chaise longue. Maybe it would have even helped the character development if the time setting had been clearer. Their behaviour was settled somewhere between Victorian courtesy and informal modern manners.
The cast worked well together as an ensemble and knew how to handle the text to entertain their audience. Jamie Thompson earned most of the laughs, portraying Arthur Goring, a friend of the family who is the definition of a narcissistic dandy. Although this character is probably the most eccentric, Thompson didn’t turn him into a caricature. His characterization was far from the clichéd portrayal of some of the other characters such as the French visitor Vicomte de Najal (Westwood), who was wearing a fake ‘Hercule Poirot’ moustache and spoke in a comedy French accent. Great comical sidekicks were Goring’s simple-minded father (Michael Stewart Kenneth) and the sharp-tongued Lady Markby (Eileen Battye).
Overall I had an enjoyable evening, but I wish director David Phipps-Davis had made a clearer statement with his staging instead of solely trusting in the ingenuity of the play itself. It’s an entertaining production, but it didn’t quite exploit its full potential.
Author: Oscar Wilde
Director: David Phipps-Davis
Producer: Smart Productions in association with Tabard Theatre
Booking Until: 19 July 2014
Booking Link: https://kiosk.iristickets.co.uk/k?v=tabard&item_type=103&general_event_event=An+Ideal+Husband