Sunday, September 07, 2008

An Ideal Husband at the Abbey


I went to see Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband" at the Abbey Theatre last night with Roma, Dorothy, and Peter. We first had an excellent dinner in the Mermaid Cafe on Dame Street. I had scallops for starters and ray for main course - excellent (I write this here because I never remember what I had previously in a restaurant if I ever go there again).

An Ideal Husband is a very funny play - it is a blend of humour, intrique, farce, and morality that explores human frailty and social hypocrisy. We all have to pay for what we do is the theme, and Sir Robert Chilton has a secret that is discovered and exposed. His fortune is based on an early version of insider dealing. The wonderfully over-acted Mrs. Cheveley threatens blackmail over a letter and the ruin of Sir Robert's career. But she is not beyond reproach herself. What follows is lots of humour with unexpected twists and intrique - the difference between men and women is constantly examined. Wilde wrote this when his marriage was breaking up and he was being blackmailed by the owner of a homosexual brothel over a letter written to his lover. Wilde is present in the three main characters - Sir Robert Chiltern, Lord Goring, and Mrs Cheveley. He mocks London society at every opportunity.
I don't go to the Abbey (or plays) enough - this was a wonderfully entertaining evening in good company and I should make a greater effort to see more. Roddy Doyle's version of "The Playboy of the Western World" is coming up in Decemeber - I'll be sure to catch that.

An Ideal Husband also sounds likes a series of one liners. Wilde is quoted so often that the play could be considered a selection of his quotes being joined together to form a story. My favourite quote was "If one could only teach the English how to talk, and the Irish how to listen, society here would be quite civilized".

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