Review: An Ideal Husband (Epicentre Theatre Company)

epicentreVenue: Zenith Theatre (Chatswood NSW), Jul 18 – 26, 2014
Playwright: Oscar Wilde
Director: Christine Firkin
Cast: Jessica-Belle Keogh, Emily Pollard, Hannah Pembroke, Sandy Velini, Emily McGowan, Kelly Rae Olander, James Belfrage, Benjamin Vickers, Pam Ennor, Andre Cougle

Theatre review
Politics and corruption propel the plot in An Ideal Husband. The concept of a person facing consequences from misdeeds, and the possibility of turning over a new leaf, are also discussed. The analysis of these subjects however, are not the most appealing feature of Oscar Wilde’s work. What we want is his wit. The strength of his work lies in the characters he creates, and more importantly, the way in which they communicate. Director Christine Firkin seeks to enliven much of the humour in Wilde’s text. There is a clear commitment to comedy in this production, and when scenes are effective, they are quite magical. Interpretations of Wilde’s writing rely heavily on performance. A director is not an acting coach, and it is obvious here that Firkin too, banks on the aptitude and intellectual maturity of her cast, to deliver the play’s sophisticated and challenging farce.

Benjamin Vickers’ star sparkles in the production. The role of Viscount Goring demands a balance of frivolity and acumen, which Vickers executes beautifully. He has an assured focus that reveals itself through a performance that is precise and considered, while also feeling unrestrained and alive. The playfulness he brings to the stage is thoroughly charming, and adds a crucial element of dynamism to community theatre that can often be overly serious and staid.

Lady Chiltern is played by Jessica-Belle Keogh, whose interpretations of Wilde’s words are consistently rich and vivid. Keogh is at first sight an excessively youthful Gertrude, but she proves herself to be believable and compelling. The actor does however, have a tendency to use her laughter as a device to improve comic timing when lines are sparse, which can detract from the authenticity of her characterisation. Emily Pollard is a suitably devious Mrs Cheveley. She has a keen sense for comedy, and is skillful at creating stage chemistry. Pollard has the vivacity that her role requires, but her body language can be fidgety at times, which comes across as being slightly lacking in confidence.

Firkin’s direction ensures that the show is tight, and its story is told with clarity. She keeps the performance at an energetic level by creating movement, especially during long passages of conversations. It is not a lavish production of great polish, but it is accomplished on many fronts. Idealism is a value we can all appreciate, but perfection is always elusive. It is the journey that moves us closer to it that counts, especially in making art.