Searching for an Honest Politician
In the midst of strange political times, we are reminded by Oscar Wilde that there is no such thing as an honest politician. Even those who we believe to be above reproach have skeletons in their closets, just waiting to jump out. Does the politician shove the skeleton back in the closet, keep it hush-hush, and make a personal vow to do better? Or does he let it out and accept his fate?
That’s the question in An Ideal Husband, now on stage at Stratford’s Avon Theatre. Luckily there are plenty of laughs in this Oscar Wilde comedy, something we need in today’s political climate. Wilde wrote this in 1895 – and here we are, 123 years later, still expecting to find an honest politician. Sooner or later, we learn they all have feet of clay.
Sir Robert Chiltern, the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs, who everyone thinks is the ideal politician, is above reproach. His wife, Lady Gertrude Chiltern adores him, so proud of his clean record. They are hosting a soiree when Mrs. Laura Cheveley arrives uninvited. She knows a financial scandal in Sir Robert’s past and wants to blackmail him, by forcing him to stand in the House of Parliament and support a plan that will make her rich. Both the Chilterns turn to their friend, Lord Arthur Goring for advice in avoiding scandal.
Brad Hodder, as Lord Goring, is outstanding as the hapless fellow caught in the middle. He has excellent comedic timing with hilarious facial expressions and body language. Joseph Ziegler plays Lord Goring’s very stern father, and the contrast between the two is hilarious. When his father insists it was time he get married, Lord Goring proposes to the lovely Miss Mabel Chiltern played delightfully by Zara Jestadt.
Tim Campbell is suitably proper and sombre as Sir Robert and similarly Sophia Walker is very prim as Lady Gertrude. They make the perfect couple to be anguishing over a possible scandal. Bahareh Yaraghi is a perfect extortionist, mean and manipulative, while smiling all the time.
The set is glorious, filled with all the richness of a beautiful 19th century English upper class manor. Costumes are superb, especially the lovely gowns of the party goers.
The play is typical Oscar Wilde: satiric humour and plenty of laughs, mixed with a message. It almost turns into a farce with slamming doors and mistaken identities, but is saved with its clever dialogue and interesting characters.
Assuming it’s impossible to have a flawless politician, Wilde takes us on a ride – should all failings be confessed, or is it possible for wives to forgive and forget? The audience has great fun finding out.
An Ideal Husband continues in repertory until October 28 at the Avon Theatre, Stratford. Tickets are available at the Stratford Festival at 1-800-567-1600, or check www.stratfordfestival.ca
Photo: Left: Bahareh Yaraghi as Mrs. Laura Cheveley and Tim Campbell as Sir Robert Chiltern in An Ideal Husband. Right: Zara Jestadt as Miss Mabel Chiltern and Brad Hodder as Lord Arthur Goring. Photos by Emily Cooper.
An Ideal Husband
By Oscar Wilde
Directed by Lezlie Wade
Performed by Brad Hodder, Tim Campbell, Bahareh Yaraghi, Sophia Walker, Zara Jestadt, Marion Adler Joseph Ziegler, et al.
Produced by Stratford Festival
Avon Theatre, Stratford
May 11 to October 28, 2018
Reviewed by Mary Alderson