An Ideal Husband

Comedy by Oscar Wilde. "Sooner or later, we shall all have to pay for what we do... No one should be entirely judged by their past" Sir Robert Chiltern is a successful Government minister, well-off and with a loving wife. All this is threatened when Mrs Cheveley appears in London with damning evidence of a past misdeed. Sir Robert turns for help to his friend Lord Goring, an apparently idle philanderer and the despair of his family. For the next 48 hours all their lives will be turned upside down. The brilliance of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband is that it is a stylish critique of politicians and social morality, whilst leaving the audience convinced they have seen uplifting and light-hearted entertainment.

Original London West End Production at the Haymarket and Criterion Theatre 1895

1st London West End Revival at the St James Theatre 1914

London Revival at the Westminster Theatre 1943

2nd London West End Revival at the Strand, Piccadilly and Garrick Theatre 1965

London Revival at the Westminster Theatre 1989

3rd London West End Revival at the Globe, Haymarket, Old Vic, Albery and Lyric Theatres 1992 - 1999

4th London West End Revival at the Vaudeville Theatre 2010

5th London West End Revival at the Vaudeville Theatre 2018

Oscar Wilde's other plays include A Woman of No Importance, Lady Windermere's Fan and The Importance Of Being Earnest. The playwright was the subject of David Hare's play The Judas Kiss.

Original London West End Production 1895

Opened 3 January 1895, Closed 6 April 1895 at the Haymarket Theatre
Transferred 13 April 1895, Closed 27 April 1895 at the Criterion Theatre

The original cast featured Lewis Waller as 'Sir Robert Chiltern', Julia Neilson as 'Lady Chiltern', Florence West as 'Mrs Cheveley' and Charles Hawtrey as 'Lord Goring'. Produced by Lewis Waller.

1st London West End Revival 1914

Opened 14 May 1914, Closed 24 July 1914 at the St James Theatre

The original cast featured Arthur Wontner as 'Sir Robert Chiltern', Phyllis Neilson-Terry as 'Lady Chiltern', Hilda Moore as 'Mrs Cheveley' and George Alexander as 'Lord Goring'. Produced by George Alexander.

Phyllis Neilson-Terry played the same role that her mother had originated in the 1895 Premiere.

London Revival 1943

Opened 16 November 1943, Closed 1 July 1944 at the Westminster Theatre (now The Other Place)

The original cast featured Manning Whiley as 'Sir Robert Chiltern', Rosemary Scott as 'Lady Chiltern', Martita Hunt as 'Mrs Cheveley' and Roland Culver as 'Lord Goring'. The cast also included Dame Irene Vanbrugh as 'Lady Markby'. Directed by Jack Minster with sets and cosumes Rex Whistler.

2nd London West End Revival 1965

Opened 16 December 1965, Closed 23 July 1966 at the Strand Theatre
Transferred 13 August 1966, Closed 29 October 1966 at the Piccadilly Theatre
Transferred 13 December 1966, Closed 21 January 2967 at the Garrick Theatre

The original cast featured Michael Denison as 'Sir Robert Chiltern', Dulcie Gray as 'Lady Chiltern', Margaret Lockwood as 'Mrs Cheveley' and Richard Todd as 'Lord Goring'. Directed by James Roose-Evans with designs by Anthony Holland.

London Revival 1989

Previewed 18 April 1989, Opened 24 April 1989, Closed 25 November 1989 at the Westminster Theatre (now The Other Place)

The original cast featured Jeremy Child as 'Sir Robert Chiltern', Liz Bagley as 'Lady Chiltern', Delia Lindsay as 'Mrs Cheveley' and Jeremy Sinden as 'Lord Goring'. Directed by Patrick Sandford with sets by Juliet Shillingford and costumes by Nicole Tapp.

3rd London West End Revival 1992

Previewed 4 November 1992, Opened 11 November 1992, Closed 12 June 1993 at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre)
Previewed 11 January 1996, Opened 17 January 1996, Closed 20 April 1996 at the Haymarket Theatre
Transferred 7 May 1996, Closed 25 January 1997 at the Old Vic Theatre
Previewed 29 July 1997, Opened 7 August 1997, Closes 11 October 1997 at the Haymarket Theatre
Transferred 14 October 1997, Closed 21 February 1998 at the Globe Theatre (now Gielgud Theatre)
Transferred 3 March 1998, Closed 22 August 1998 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)
Transferred 25 August 1998, Closed 10 October 1998 at the Haymarket Theatre
Transferred 3 November 1998, Closed 6 March 1999 at the Lyric Theatre

The original November 1992 cast at the Globe Theatre featured David Yelland as 'Sir Robert Chiltern', Hannah Gordon as 'Lady Chiltern', Anna Carteret as 'Mrs Cheveley', Martin Shaw as 'Lord Goring', Michael Denison as 'The Earl of Caversham' and Dulcie Gray as 'Lady Markby'.

The original January 1996 cast at the Haymarket Theatre featured David Yelland as 'Sir Robert Chiltern', Penny Downie as 'Lady Chiltern', Anna Carteret as 'Mrs Cheveley', Martin Shaw as 'Lord Goring', Michael Denison as 'The Earl of Caversham' and Dulcie Gray as 'Lady Markby'.

The original July 1997 cast at the Globe Theatre featured Simon Ward as 'Sir Robert Chiltern', Kim Thomson as 'Lady Chiltern', Kate O'Mara as 'Mrs Cheveley', Martin Shaw as 'Lord Goring', Michael Denison as 'The Earl of Caversham' and Dulcie Gray as 'Lady Markby'.

Directed by Peter Hall with designs by Carl Toms and lighting by Joe Atkins.

This production transferred to New York's Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre (previewed 25 April 1996, opened on 1 May 1996 and closed on 26 January 1997) with the same original lead cast as the London January 1996 cast listed above.

Running for a combined total of three years, this is the longest running production of an Oscar Wilde play either in London's West End, or on New York's Broadway. (Note: the longest continuously running production was John Gielgud's 1945 production of Lady Windermere's Fan which run for 18-months at the Haymarket Theatre).

"The play was staged while Queensberry was harassing Wilde, and precipitately withdrawn just after the dramatist's arrest. You only have to shut your eyes for a moment, and imagine that Chiltern's indiscretion is sexual rather than financial, to see the parallels between him and the man who ended up exposed, ruined and thrust into the stony maw of Reading Gaol. The plot had a particular frisson in the 1890s, and has a more general one in the 1990s. But how to disguise the fact that in some ways both form and content are pretty dated?... Well, Peter Hall and his cast have done more disguising than I had believed possible. They make light of the play's melodrama and bring weight to its comedy. Counterparts of Anna Carteret's Mrs Cheveley, with her creamy charm, and David Yelland's wintry Chiltern with his tense smiles, may be found politely destroying each other in politics or business today. And Penny Downie even manages to find warmth in Gertrude's seeming coldness. High minded but unself-knowing, she has construed her love for Chiltern as respect for his integrity and somewhere inside herself is not sorry to see the mistake corrected. The icy wife is, after all, a real woman. But the evening's performance comes from Martin Shaw as Robert's friend and rescuer, the dandy and wit Lord Goring. His full, florid voice, face, wig and cravat all seem designed to evoke Wilde himself; but, as it turns out, less Wilde the poseur and paradoxist than Wilde the enemy of the rigid and frigid." The Times

"Peter Hall's superb production of Wilde's An Ideal Husband was first seen at the Globe Theatre in 1992. It is now revived, with the original cast virtually intact; a just return since it finds new layers of meaning in a play that has always been seen as an awkward mixture of melodrama and bons mots. Hall's approach is to treat Wilde's melodrama as farce and his comedy as fundamentally serious... Hall shrewdly treats the third act, with its eavesdroppings, mistaken identities and eventual routing of the scheming Mrs Cheveley, as a piece of riotous comedy that allows us to swallow its creaking contrivances. What makes this a landmark in modern Wilde productions is Hall's uncovering of the author's deep-seated charity and compassion. He does this by treating the Wildean figure of Lord Goring not as the usual vehicle for epigrams but as a man of extraordinary sanity and kindness. In Martin Shaw's impeccable performance, he reminds me of Baudelaire's observation that 'dandyism is the last flicker of heroism in decadent ages'. Physically, even down to the buttonhole, Shaw is almost a reincarnation of Wilde himself; a fleshy figure who looks like a slightly debauched Adonis. But, under the lazy-lidded eyes and the ironic hand-on-hip stance, Shaw reveals Lord Goring's profound humanity... Shaw's performance is the moral fulcrum on which everything else depends. And it is accompanied by fine work from Anna Carteret as the conniving Mrs Cheveley, from David Yelland as the hollow pillar of public rectitude, Sir Robert Chiltern, and from Penny Downie, the main newcomer to the cast, as his wife... Hall's production reminds us that Wilde was not just writing about the divorce between public and private morality or the Victorian worship of wealth, but about the need for charity and love in human affairs. And given Wilde's own subsequent tragic fate, the message here acquires a moving resonance." The Guardian

4th London West End Revival 2010

Previewed 4 November 2010, Opened 10 November 2010, Closed 26 February 2011 at the Vaudeville Theatre

The cast featured Alexander Hanson as 'Sir Robert Chiltern', Rachael Stirling as 'Lady Chiltern', Samantha Bond as 'Mrs Cheveley' and Elliot Cowan as 'Lord Goring', with Charles Kay as 'The Earl of Caversham', Caroline Blakiston as 'Lady Markby' and Fiona Button as 'Mabel Chiltern'. Directed by Lindsay Posner with designs by Stephen Brimson Lewis, lighting by Peter Mumford, music by Matthew Scott and sound by Gareth Owen.

Samantha Bond's recent West End theatre credits include Tom Stoppard's Arcadia (Duke of York's Theatre 2009), Oscar Wilde's A Woman of No Importance (Haymarket Theatre 2003), William Shakespeare's Macbeth (Noel Coward Theatre 2002), and Christopher Hampton's Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Ambassadors Theatre in 1987).

Alexander Hanson's London theatre credits include the musicals The Sound of Music (London Palladium 2006) and Marguerite (Haymarket Theatre 2008).

"The career and wealth of Sir Robert Chiltern, Oscar Wilde's chief protagonist, is founded on the sale of a Cabinet secret to a financier... In the play, Chiltern appears to have got away with it until the scheming Mrs Cheveley arrives on the social scene and threatens to expose the guilt beneath the gilded career. It's surely not by chance that in Lindsay Posner's well-dressed, well-spoken revival, the walls of Chiltern's magnificent house are coated in blindingly bright gold leaf. Samantha Bond's siren Mrs Cheveley has dangerous adventuress etched in her sculpted face and blazingly hard eyes... There's lots of talk of power in this piece and those with the most are in possession of a secret that must be kept at a considerable price, or revealed at a terrible cost... The classily clipped and biting Bond, her gorgeous ball gowns and the golden set are the best reasons for seeing this play. There's a superb performance too from Elliot Cowan as the dandy Lord Goring, who pretends he thinks of little but his buttonhole but actually values truth and loyalty even more highly than his appearance. He's the ideal husband for Sir Robert's enchantingly unworldly sister Mabel... It says a great deal for Posner's production that the play proves to be less an epigrammatic firework party and more a tragedy masquerading as a glittering comedy." The Mail on Sunday

Oscar Wilde's ability to satirise the hollowness of our social and political life remains remarkably undimmed. This play, first performed in 1895 (the year of the author's arrest), was a thinly-veiled assault on Victorian hypocrisy. But it resonates with a loud topical ring considering the various antics today's MPs have been up to when filling out their expense sheets... If Sir Robert Chiltern's past is revealed not only will his career be shattered but his marriage would also founder on the rocks of his financial immorality. But Wilde's central theme is that of the need for forgiveness and understanding in a shabby world. Eventually, despite the sword of scandal hanging there, everything is sorted out happily. Although Wilde's style, with aphorisms flying around like shrapnel, can be wearing at times the elegance of his structure must be admired. The truly wonderful Samantha Bond as Mrs Cheveley steals every scene she is in. Her naturally cheeky beauty can suddenly narrow into serpentine evil as she pours out honeyed venom. She can become the living nightmare of a man in the public eye. Alexander Hanson brings a well-observed crushed dignity to the part of Sir Robert. And Rachael Stirling is superbly priggish as Lady Chiltern. The evening really belongs to Elliot Cowan as the dandified, seemingly pointless Viscount Goring. At first he seems little more than a vacuous figure, mincing from party to party. But he finally emerges as a beacon of gentle sanity in an unforgiving world - all delightfully handled by the talented Mr Cowan. Much praise too for Lindsay Posner's fluent direction and designer Stephen Brimson Lewis' gorgeously glowing sets." The Daily Express

"Lovers of Downton Abbey can get a fix of sumptuous upper class life with this Oscar Wilde 'comedy with attitude'. At the end of the l9th Century, all the ruling classes worry about is keeping up appearances and keeping out of the papers: 'Scandals used to add class to a man, now they crush him,' they wail. Alexander Hanson is both dignified and panicky as Sir Robert Chiltern. Outwardly the perfect politician and husband, he's being blackmailed by Samantha Bond's seductive and dangerous Mrs Cheveley. His unlikely rescuer, however, is foppish friend Viscount Goring (Eliot Cowan) a man deemed not worth marrying because he changed his clothes too many times a day. Their wonderful performances, fully do justice to Wilde's wise and witty words. Rachael Stirling, Diana Rigg's excellent actress daughter, is Lady Chiltern, a woman who has put her husband on a pedestal so high he's terrified to fall." The News of the World

The Importance of Being Earnest may be one of the most evergreen comedies in drama, but An Ideal Husband has a better plot. Numerous twists and turns ensue, involving suspected adultery, a lost brooch and another incriminating letter, before final restitution... Elliot Cowan makes for a tremendously likeable Goring... Alexander Hanson is good as Chiltern, tormented by his ambitions, but unable to put them aside, and electrifying in the confrontation scene with his wife... Caroline Blakiston is a hoot as the eccentric old battleaxe Lady Markby... Fiona Button is a delightful Mabel and Samantha Bond a charmingly poisonous Mrs Cheveley... and there's a subtly compelling performance from Rachael Stirling as Gertrude, Lady Chiltern... Along with these fine performances, there are resplendent sets by Stephen Brimson Lewis... The director, Lindsay Posner, has cooked up a classy, handsome production of a work that shows Wilde at his most wittily serious and subversively moral." The Sunday Times

An Ideal Husband in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 4 November 2010, opened on 10 November 2010 and closed on 26 February 2011.

5th London West End Revival 2018

Previewed 20 April 2018, Opened 3 May 2018, Closed 14 July 2018 at the Vaudeville Theatre

A major revival of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband in London starring father-and-son Edward Fox and Freddie Fox with Frances Barber and Susan Hampshire

The cast features Edward Fox as 'Earl of Caversham', Freddie Fox as 'Lord Goring', Frances Barber as 'Mrs Cheveley' with Susan Hampshire as 'Lady Markby', Nathaniel Parker as 'Sir Robert Chiltern', Sally Bretton as 'Lady Chiltern' and Faith Omole as 'Mabel Chiltern' with Sam Archer-Mason, Sam Barrett, Rebecca Charles, Joanna van Kampen, Samuel Martin, Tameka Mortimer, Sam Parks, Michael Peters and Tim Wallers. Directed by Jonathan Church with designs by Simon Higlett and lighting by Howard Harrison. Please be aware that the following performances will be filmed: Saturday 2 June at 2.30pm and Tuesday 5 June at 7.30pm.

When this production opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in May 2018, Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard thought that the evening "gains no end of fun from masterful performances from real-life father and son Edward and Freddie Fox, playing fictional — and fractious — father and son Lord Caversham and Lord Goring. Jonathan Church's production triumphs because it skilfully balances Wilde's light and shade, rather than overdosing on epigrams and skimping on emotions... Nigh on Ideal." Ann Treneman in the Times wrote that Freddie Fox "is absolutely superb," adding that "Jonathan Church directs a delight of a revival that rarely lags and the set, by Simon Higlett, has enough swag and velvet to make Wilde himself happy." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times commented that "Freddie Fox effortlessly delivers that mix of insouciance and gravity and so holds the centre in the play's tricky combination of melodrama, comedy and social criticism... the trick of Jonathan Church's production is that, while tragedy is averted, the shadow lingers behind the happy ending." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper said that Freddie Fox gives "an enchantingly comic performance... in this shrewd, very enjoyable revival of An Ideal Husband directed by Jonathan Church... Frances Barber plays the melodrama to the hilt... Susan Hampshire is an absolute delight... and the venerable Edward Fox creates a delicious double act of mutual exasperation with Freddie: his real-life son playing his fictional one." Neil Norman in the Daily Express explained how "in Jonathan Church's production of Oscar Wilde's most serious comedy, Fox Senior brings his usual crusty twinkle to the Earl of Caversham while Freddie - 29 going on 16 - is full of youthful bounce and pep as dandified fop Viscount Goring." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph praised "Jonathan Church's immaculate revival of Wilde's 1899 comedy." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail held that "Freddie Fox is the best thing in the latest Oscar Wilde revival at the Vaudeville Theatre... How beautifully he moves on stage. He plays Wilde with a free, enlivening normality - no heavy pauses or hammery. This performance marks his coming of age on the West End stage."

Freddie Fox's West End theatre credits include the role of 'Tristan Tzara' in Patrick Marber's revival of Tom Stoppard's Travesties at the Apollo Theatre in 2016; the role of 'Lord Alfred Douglas' ('Bosie') in Neil Armfield's revival of David Hare's The Judas Kiss at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2013; the role of 'Simon Bliss' in Howard Davies' revival of Noel Coward's Hay Fever at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2012; the role of 'Tony Davenport' in Thea Sharrock's revival of Terence Rattigan's Cause Celebre at the Old Vic Theatre in 2011; and the role of 'Camille Chandebise' in Richard Eyre's revival of Georges Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear, in a version by John Mortimer, at the Old Vic Theatre in 2010.

Frances Barber's London stage credits include the role of 'Comtesse de Saint-Fond' in Michael Grandage's revival of Yukio Mishima's Madame de Sade, in a version by Donald Keene, for the Donmar Warehouse at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2009; the role of 'Arkadina' in Trevor Nunn's revival of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the New London Theatre in 2007; the role of 'Goneril' in Trevor Nunn's revival of Shakespeare's King Lear, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the New London Theatre in 2007; the role of 'Dim Sum' in Sean Mathias' production of Billie Brown's pantomime Aladdin at the Old Vic Theatre in 2006; the role of 'Cleopatra' in Dominic Dromgoole's revival of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 2006; the role of 'Nurse Ratched' in Terry Johnson and Tamara Harvey's revival of Dale Wasserman's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest at the Gielgud Theatre in 2004; and the role of 'Billie Tricks' in Gemma Bodinetz's production of the Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe musical Closer to Heaven at the Arts Theatre in 2001.

Edward Fox's West End stage credits include the role of 'John Betjeman' in Gareth Armstrong's production of Hugh Whitemore's one-man play Sand in the Sandwiches at the Haymarket Theatre in 2017; the role of 'Winston Churchill' in Stephen Daldry's production of Peter Morgan's The Audience at the Gielgud Theatre in 2013; the roles of 'Morganhall' and 'Fennimore Truscott' in Christopher Morehan's production of John Mortimer's double-bill Legal Fictions: The Dock Brief / Edwin at the Savoy Theatre in 2008; the role of 'William' in Peter Hall's revival of George Bernard Shaw's You Never Can Tell at the Garrick Theatre in 2005; the role of 'Bernard Berenson' in Harold Pinter's production of Simon Gray's Old Masters at the Comedy Theatre in 2004; the role of 'Harold Macmillan' in Christopher Morahan's production of Hugh Whitemore's A Letter of Resignation at the Comedy Theatre in 1997 and Savoy Theatre in 1998; the role of 'Philip' in Kenneth Ives' revival of Christopher Hampton's The Philanthropist at the Wyndham's Theatre in 1991; and the role of 'St John Quartermaine' in Harold Pinter's production of Simon Gray's Quartermaine's Terms at the Queen's Theatre in 1981.

"Real-life father and son Edward and Freddie Fox are delightful in this sumptuous revival of Oscar Wilde's classic. Fox Junior owns the stage as fabulously dandy Viscount Goring, who displays an unexpected morality as the loyal friend of rising politician Sir Robert Chiltern and his virtuous wife Lady Chiltern. The couple are rocked by femme fatale Mrs Cheveley, played with husky-voiced allure by Frances Barber. She threatens to derail Chiltern's career - and marriage - with information of his past sins. The vivacious cast make a good job of turning the sometimes laborious play into a sparky performance." The Sunday Mirror

"Jonathan Church's handsome production of this elegant comedy... Despite the glamorous costumes and stultifying etiquette, it is surprisingly topical at times. There's even a comment about immigration that gives Susan Hampshire's Lady Markby an unexpected laugh... As the fiendish Cheveley, Frances Barber perilously teeters on the territory of Cruella de Vil, without ever quite landing there. Freddie Fox shines as Chiltern's friend Goring, who appears to lead an entirely frivolous life... There's a real spark in his relationship with Mabel, Robert's sister, a deliciously charming performance by Faith Omole. But the greatest pleasure comes from Goring's sparring relationship with his father, an antiquated aristo played with total conviction by Fox's father, Edward." The Sunday Times

"The upright husband of the title, a politician, turns out to have founded his fortune on treachery: years ago he sold a cabinet secret; now he risks exposure. It is the most preening and flippant of characters who behaves with probity and generosity. Jonathan Church’s clear, stately production neatly brings out the paradoxes. In one respect it excels. Freddie Fox, playing the son of his real-life father, is exquisite as a creamily contemptuous dandy who seems likely to prove a loving spouse. It is a performance full of inventive grace notes – buffing his nails, aiming a kick at his father's back – but also strong and direct." The Observer

An Ideal Husband in London at the Vaudeville Theatre previewed from 20 April 2018, opened on 3 May 2018 and closed on 14 July 2018