Director George Ellis’s promise that DUCT’s performance of ‘An Ideal Husband’ by Oscar Wilde would be one full of wit, was in my opinion not only fulfilled, but surpassed by a stellar cast who showed dedicated characterisation as well as adept comedic timing. Their performance was a joy to behold and despite weighing in at a lengthy two and a half hours (including the interval,) I found myself thoroughly engaged and entertained all night long.
The small setting of The City Theatre created a certain intimacy which perfectly complemented the staging; most scenes took place inside the private rooms of the characters’ homes, allowing the audience a voyeuristic view into the ‘hushed up’ goings-on that took place behind the closed doors of Victorian society. The staging itself was effective in its simplicity, as the backdrop and the few tables and chairs onstage not only accurately conveyed the time period of the piece, they could also be quickly changed during a black-out to allow for effective and fast transitions between scenes to indicate a change of location. The use of costume and props was also ideal, as the actors seemed comfortable and not weighed down or hindered by the props they had to use, such as cigarettes and drinking glasses, which added to the overall effect of the luxury of the bourgeoisie society at the time and the intimacy of the private setting.
As for the acting, the various snorts and giggles from the audience were proof enough that the players onstage commanded an excellent use of comedic timing, and often relished the opportunities their dialogue provided to make the audience laugh. If I had to give one criticism, it would be that the beginnings of certain lines were lost to the laughter, and that performers should perhaps have waited for the audience to settle down before delivering their lines to ensure they were heard.
A special mention must be given to Harry Scholes, whose performance as Sir Robert Chiltern was utterly believable and at times genuinely heartfelt; despite his characters’ misgivings, the audience sympathise with him entirely throughout the course of the play. Lily Kattenhorn-Black also shines as his impassioned and loyal wife, Lady Chiltern and the frosty atmosphere between her and the delightfully manipulative and sophisticated Mrs Cheveley – played beautifully by Nina Stevens – was at times palpable. I genuinely could go on though, from Yasmin Rufo’s excitable Mabel Chiltern to Ryan Yao-Smith’s fantastically curmudgeonly Lord Caversham, the entire cast gave stand-out performances, and presented the audience with authentically believable and hilarious characters that summed up the gossiping and hypocritical nature of society at that time.
Overall, the entire cast and crew should be commended for putting on a show that not only highlighted the excellence of Wilde’s writing, but also the prowess of those on and offstage. Simple in its design and effective in its presentation, ‘An Ideal Husband’ is a wonderfully witty evening of entertainment and an ideal remedy to any winter blues.
‘An Ideal Husband’ is on at City Theatre, 8-9th December at 19:30pm.