The sparkling Wildean wit of An Ideal Husband could raze almost any theatre to the ground, and is thus fitting for the final student performance at the Old Fire Station. The set design is practical and atmospheric in its period simplicity, and is complemented by an impressive wardrobe of beautiful costume. Effective use of the space expands the stage through inclusion of the staircase and wings, and a nice touch is added by the onstage piano, played during unnecessary blackouts for minor scene-changes.
Despite the excellent design and music, the play intermittently lacked in energy and enthusiasm as a result of one or two fluffed lines, which disappointingly knocked the confidence of an otherwise impressive cast. But as Oscar himself once said, ‘consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative’, and I’m sure he would have been delighted by the actors’ determined ability to get back on track in character and, a commendable last-minute cast change caused by the great ash cloud in the sky.
The well accented plummy-tones of the lead actors were at times lost at the back of the theatre, but what they lacked in clear enunciation they made up for with their excellent facial expression and clear sense of fun on stage. It is the minor characters that steal the show, with the recurring ‘yes sir’ of the butler echoed with all the various gossipy nuances of a pair of Society Ladies.
An Ideal Husband is a masterpiece in comedy heavily reliant on perfectly delivered lines encapsulating Wilde’s famous paradoxical philosophy. The cast, however, were unprepared for the laughter of the audience. There was also an unfortunate slowness to this production – especially when picking up cues – which hindered what is a marvellous, farcical plot. One hopes that the element of the unexpected, necessary for the humour to have any real impace, may be regained as the run, and confidence, progresses.
The production deserves recognition for its 0th week ambition, and I hope, despite lack of publicity, will receive the appreciative audience it deserves. An Ideal Husband is a worthy curtain call for over a decade of student performances at the OFS… Praise indeed indicative of the old adage, ‘there’s no smoke without fire.’
Verdict: Not overly Wilde, but an ideal send off
An Ideal Husband is at the Old Fire Station until Saturday