Tonight we went to the Vaudeville Theatre in the Strand and were royally entertained with Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. It was absolutely hilarious and delightful with some of the wittiest dialogue outside of Earnest delivered by an exceptionally brilliant cast.
Top of the list was Freddie Fox as Viscount Goring. He controlled the stage from start to finish with a deft hand and birthright as a member of British theatre royalty. Add to that the inclusion of his father, Edward (playing his father, the Earl of Caversham) and you already have a winning combination.
While we saw Edward years ago in The Browning Version in Guildford (he was brilliant) it’s our first time seeing Freddie. And what a treat it was. He delivered Wilde’s lines with utter panache and delight. Mind you, the line of the night went to the 81 year old Edward Fox as he showed everyone how to deliver the perfect line with great precision in order to claim the biggest laugh. He really is one of our greatest living actors.
Of course the rest of the cast was equal to the task including Nathaniel Parker (as Robert Chiltern) though I can’t help but think of him as Rawdon Crawley in Vanity Fair every time I see him. Sally Bretton played his wife, Lady Chiltern with an uncanny resemblance to Farelli. Frances Barber was a suitably evil Mrs Cheveley who more than rightly gets her comeuppance and Susan Hampshire a marvellous Lady Markby whose declarations on marriage and society were perfect.
The rest of the cast were equally wonderful but special mention must be made of Joanna van Kampen (Mrs Marchmont) and Rebecca Charles (Countess of Basildon) both of whom took languid disassociation to a whole new level bordering on overt lesbianism. (Joanna plays Fallon in The Archers.)
And laugh! The audience rarely stopped to draw breath. For a play written in 1895 to still have the audience roaring with laughter is a testament to the brilliance that was Oscar Wilde; to realise that when it originally opened in London (to ‘dazzling success’) he was soon jailed for being himself is a testament to the foulness of humanity.