Review - An Ideal Husband at the Vaudeville Theatre
The Oscar Wilde season at the Vaudeville, which has already produced revivals of Lady Windermere's Fan and A Woman of No Importance and now continues with An Ideal Husband, feels like slipping into another age of luxurious chocolate box theatre. There's lots of soft-centred fondants that ooze wit, the occasional hard caramel of chewy perception, and perhaps an uncomfortable flavour you may want to move on quickly from.
It may feel like an exercise in theatrical nostalgia, but actually - as Jonathan Church's new handsomely upholstered (in every sense) and smartly cast production demonstrates - there's plenty of political and personal intrigue that could come from today's news (only now it wouldn't be an incriminating letter that would be used as blackmail for a person to seek parliamentary support of an initiative that an MP doesn't agree with, but probably a deleted tweet that had been screen-grabbed). The play, originally premiered in 1895, revolves around support, or not, for a canal building scheme; change that to Brexit, and it could be set today.
The original production also immediately preceded Wilde's own downfall by publicly revealed sexual scandal, so it is also strangely prescient about the price and consequences of secrets.
But as beautifully played and cast (by Gabrielle Dawes), it is also a stellar joy in itself. The biggest joy is to see a real-life father and son Edward and Freddie Fox playing an onstage father and son. Edward may be about the most eccentric actor currently on the theatrical boards, with those plummy vowels and elongated delivery. But there's something utterly delightful in seeing him spar off disdainfully at his much more sprightly stage son, played with infinite reservoirs of charm and cheeky wit by Freddie, who is turning into a really interesting and versatile actor himself.
Meanwhile there's also a fiery, generous performance from Frances Barber as the blackmailing Mrs Cheveley, smart work from Nathaniel Parker as her victim, and a scene-stealing appearance by Tim Wallers as servant to Freddie Fox's Viscount Goring.
An Ideal Husband Tickets are available now.