An Ideal Husband at Theatro Technis
Oscar Wilde never goes out of fashion, and this new rendition of An Ideal Husband retains the freshness of his widely-quoted dialogues thanks to the engaging performances of a solid cast. Like many of the Irish playwright’s works, this play denounces social mores and a society that hinges on appearances, but the main focus in this case is marriage and the dynamics that govern it. Wilde presents the concept of the “ideal husband” as a dangerous myth that pushes women to make “false idols” of men, and thus indirectly discourage them from displaying their weaknesses and being themselves. A spouse’s character, however, will inevitably be exposed, breaking the balance that was based upon false premises.
Sir Robert Chiltern is a member of the House of Commons who enjoys an excellent reputation. While hosting a gathering with his wife Gertrude, he’s approached by Mrs Cheveley, an unscrupulous woman in possession of a compromising letter, exposing the dishonest method by which Sir Robert came to his fortune. She blackmails him into supporting a fraudulent project, and this leads to disputes between Sir Robert and his wife, who is unaware of his secret. The ensuing conjugal tension is an evident critique of marriage highlighting the struggle between personal fulfilment and meeting a partner’s expectations.
The performance sets off at a slow pace and it takes time to warm up to the characters, but as the story unravels the audience is drawn into the flow of events. Whether intentional or not, the rhythm of the performance reflects the storyline, in that it begins on a superficial and detached note and gradually exposes the characters’ true natures as new truths are revealed. The wide, open performing space allows the audience, who is level with the stage, to feel closely engaged as their seats appear to be an extension of the Chilterns’ drawing room. While the set is sparsely decorated, there is great richness in the actors’ effective delivery of the play’s infamous lines.
Wilde’s dark irony is mainly voiced through Sir Robert’s confidante, Lord Goring, played by Ben Scheck. He is a fashionable bachelor who acts as mediator between all parties. His leisurely lifestyle and the absence of romantic ties in his life places him somewhere outside and above the system, allowing him to see the wider picture and induce others to employ their good sense rather than get swallowed by conventions. Lord Goring famously says that “to love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance”, which seems to perfectly sum up the play’s outlook on marriage and codependency.
An Ideal Husband is on at Theatro Technis until 22nd April 2015, for further information or to book visit here.