He was already skating on thin ice when Oscar Wilde opened his newest play at the Haymarket Theatre on 3 January 1895. An Ideal Husband was a success from the outset. Critics thought it his best play since The Importance of Being Earnest. The public agreed; its initial run at the Haymarket was 124 performances. Disaster fell in April when Wilde was arrested for ‘gross indecency’. An Ideal Husband reopened immediately at another theatre but with Wilde’s name removed from the playbill. Since that year it has been revived countless times and made into a number of films: surprisingly in Germany in 1935 and Russia in 1980. In 1947, London Films released a production starring Paulette Goddard, then two films at the end of the century: a 1999 production with Julianne Moore & Cate Blanchett, and one in 2000 with James Wilby & Sadie Frost. Its subject matter is timeless; an apparently perfect politician is found to have passed confidential information to a mysterious woman who was blackmailing him.
Melbourne Theatre Company is presenting a new production (until 18 Aug) directed by Dean Bryant. Although An Ideal Husband has more serious themes than his other plays, it still requires sparkling delivery and an unerring sense of style. The husband, Sir Robert Chiltern, will be played by Simon Gleeson, Lady Chiltern by Zindzi Okenyo, the mysterious Mrs Cheveley by Christie Whelan Browne, and Lady Markby by Gina Riley, best known from Kath & Kim. Nothing too serious here.
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