Review by Fran Edwards
Oscar Wilde’s witty drawing room comedy is as relevant today as when it was first performed in 1895. True, manners may have changed and few of society’s norms, but people and their relationships still create fascinating problems. Wilde examines the rrity of a politician who is ethical and honest and the effect of blackmail on a man who tries to be a paragon of virtue. Like the premise, the wit and humour are timeless.
Under the direction of Matthew Chapman this cast handles Wilde’s witty dialogue well and creates characters that fit well in this high society background. Stuart Pearce is Sir Robert Chiltern, the man with the dark secret, an act which he would love to forget. Pearce is entirely believable and makes Sir Robert a sympathetic man. His highly principled wife, Lady Gertrude, is played with sincerity by Anita Pipprell with great conviction. Angela Short does very well as the femme fatale Mabel Cheveley, brash and conniving whilst being persuasive.
As Lord Arthur Goring, Sir Robert’s friend and confidant, Maxwell Whigham attempts to assist in the problem and succeeds in making things worse while battling with his overbearing Father the Earl of Caversham (Lindsay Dunn) and courting Mabel Chiltern, Robert’s sister (Rhoda Sylvester). Megan Dansie plays the verbose and irritating Lady Markby delightfully with all the wit intact.
The lovely ladies who begin the play out front, Mrs Marchmont and Lady Basildon are played beautifully by Rose Harvey and Genevieve Venning and the servants are brought to life by Berny Abberdan (as Phipps) and Lindy Le Cornu (as both the butler and valet). The versatile Brad Martin played two roles Vicomte de Nanjac and Mr Trafford (one with an interesting French accent). All blended well into the society they created.
The set for this production deserves a mention as it was representative of the era and gave the illusion of grand houses, with different wall panels and furniture for every scene. Whilst I applaud the attention to detail, the long wait between scenes is excessive. Despite this it was a fine production true to Wilde’s wit and sarcasm, well done.