"Nigh on Ideal"
-Evening Standard-

"Something quite delicious"
-The Times-

"Utterly delightful"
-London Theatre-

Sorry, An Ideal Husband closed on 14 Jul 2018

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'A solid show, if opening a little shakily'

Critic Rating

3 May 2018, Vaudeville Theatre
Susannah Martin Susannah Martin
There's been mild controversy surrounding Dominic Dromgoole's Oscar Wilde season at the Vaudeville Theatre. Do we really need a whole year of middle-class plays taking up a West End venue? Unfortunately, Dromgoole's latest offering of one of Wilde's later and lesser-known plays An Ideal Husband does little to prove its place in a time where theatre is pushing boundaries.

It's a solid show, if opening a little shakily with a clumsy ballroom routine, but Wilde's writing stands the test of time. As usual, the play is littered with social and political remarks that remain strikingly relevant to this day, and are met with a knowing titter from the audience. Lady Markby's comment “now that the House of Commons is trying to become useful, it does a great deal of harm”, receives a sure amount of laughter. It just goes to show that Wilde was ahead of his time, and that politics really haven't progressed that much.

Aside from the socio-political sniggers, An Ideal Husband doesn't offer much in the way of an interesting plot. There's the villainous Lady Cheveley (a serpent-like Frances Barber), who is hell-bent on ruining the lives of the Chiltern's, all in favour of earning investment for a fraudulent scheme. Unfortunately, it's difficult in this particular day and age to feel any form of sympathy for the central characters – an upper-class couple who found their fortune through fraud.

The only people that send up the ridiculousness of the play are real-life father and son duo Edward Fox and Freddie Fox, who are nigh-on perfection as Lord Caversham and Lord Goring. Edward Fox retains a brilliant comic-timing, forever chiding his son, played with effervescent flamboyance by Freddie Fox, who lifts the play on his shoulders just as it begins to drag.

Jonathan Church's direction is clumsy and rather static, squeezing any sense of pace out of the play, particularly in the first act, where nothing really happens. But when Wilde's signature mistaken identity device comes into play in the second act, the action speeds up and becomes significantly more engaging. There is, however, only a certain amount of ballroom gowns and posh accents you can take before you end up drifting off.

Reviewed by Susannah Martin

Fiona Mountford
Freddie, for whom Wilde’s epigrammatic flourishes are a splendid match. He sensibly doesn’t overplay it, but instead adds some glorious little touches of playfulness to his part. There’s also a delightful West End debut from Faith Omole as Lord Goring’s spirited love, Mabel Chiltern. Nigh on Ideal.
Ann Treneman
There is something quite delicious about the fact that it is the two Foxes that make this Wilde revival feel quite so, well, wild. Edward Fox, at the age of 81, is playing the Earl of Caversham, a distinguished politician who is in despair over his son, Viscount Goring, a dandy who takes the triviality of his buttonhole flower arrangements as seriously as life itself.
London Theatre
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.