New College Gardens are at this time of year luscious and lively – with students celebrating end of year exams, birds twittering at dusk and foreign summer school pupils fervently discovering British drinking culture, the actors had some serious competition for attention. However, within minutes of the first scene I was sucked into Wilde’s typically mischievous plot, sensational characters and flirtatious paradoxes.
The production made no attempts to embellish or modify the play and instead expertly delivered a very precise performance. The set was neat, unfussy and practical. The lighting comprised a subtle sprinkling of candles. The costumes were elegant and by no means over indulgent. The actors were deliberately modest in their performances and thereby allowed the delectable dialogue, suitably, to lead.
Typically of Wilde, An Ideal Husband explores issues relating to love (can somebody who is perfect need love?), political scandal (can it be forgiven?), and purpose (how should one live?). No answers were given, thankfully.
The lead character, which I’ve decided was the foppish Lord Goring, was performed crisply and with smart wit. A bonus character was the London society butler ‘Mason’, played by a Spaniard who, according to the programme has ‘no experience whatsoever as a thespian’ – he was understatedly kooky and certainly won the audience’s affection. The cast performed their characters carefully and without conceit, which meant that there was a refreshing clarity to the production.
An Ideal Husband in New College Gardens was a satisfying combination of silly, serious, and sandwiches.