A Wilde ride of political ups and downs

An ideal husband
Vaudeville Theatre

NICK Clegg could feel a shiver of recognition in An Ideal Husband. In Oscar Wilde’s political comedy, Sir Robert Chiltern (Alexander Hanson) has fairly effortlessly risen through the ranks of Parliament to become Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Halfway through the first scene he is coerced into agreeing to recommend a policy he is strongly against in the House of Commons.

“Circumstances should never alter principles,” Lady Chiltern (Rachael Stirling) reminds her husband before threatening to leave him if he acts immorally. Fortunately for them both, “the idlest man in London,” dashing Lord Goring (Elliot Cowan) turns out to be a jolly good egg and tries to ensure everyone gets their dues eventually.

Lindsay Posner’s production does not do anything hugely original to Wilde’s text – because it doesn’t need to. The one-liners are perfectly delivered by a cast who leave you as charmed (Fiona Button’s Miss Mabel Chiltern) and disgusted (Samantha Bond’s Mrs Cheverly) as the Wilde intended.

Meanwhile, Stephen Brimson Lewis’ elegant design accentuates the atmosphere of precarious grandeur.

The Christmas-friendly theme of redemption reminds viewers things may just be alright in the end – perhaps even for Clegg.