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An Ideal Husband

“Every man of ambition has to fight his century with its own weapons” declares Robert Chiltern, an eminent and apparently trustworthy politician who is about to be undone by dishonest actions from his youth. It would seem that dishonesty is something that has to be condoned in certain situations to enable individuals to thrive.

Robert Chiltern is a politician created in 1895 by Oscar Wilde; the dialogue remains as prophetic, depressing and as crushingly relevant today as ever.

This is an exceptionally good looking revival directed by Jonathan Church. The superficial signs of a beautiful, perfect and ideal life are presented through both design and casting. There is much that feels very close to home in the current climate and whilst the glorious Susan Hampshire as Lady Markby declares without a hint of malice “Really, someone should arrange a proper scheme of assisted emigration” it is just another moment that forces the audience to draw breath.

It is a starry cast and whilst it is hard to imagine Mrs Cheveley (Frances Barber) bring a contemporary of Lady Chiltern (Sally Bretton) or Viscount Goring (Freddie Fox) being old enough to have too much of a “history.” There is a sparkle and fun within the dialogue and production that glosses over this. The appearance of Edward Fox as The Earl of Cavesham nods to the offstage father son relationship being played out, unsurprisingly the audience enjoyed this indulgence.

There is an impending darkness in this melodrama that draws our current political state into sharp focus. The politician moves on, unapologetically to a “new life” safe in the knowledge the past discrepancies remain secret and unknown.

 

 

Petra Schofield