If Starlight Theatre Co-operative achieves nothing else during its current season of An Ideal Husband - and opening night suggests they have already achieved a great deal - the pro-am Brisbane company has converted at least one theatre-goer to the ways of Wilde.
It is my embarrassing admission to say this production of An Ideal Husband was my first Oscar Wilde experience. I'm hooked. And a proportion of that is thanks to an infectiously fun cast who bring enough levity as to almost lift the roof from the humble Centre Stage Theatre.
An Ideal Husband really is your one-stop theatrical shop. More bodices than a BBC drama, more bitching and back-stabbing than a Liberal Party lunch; more manners than a Sunday lunch at grandma's, more pouting than a lemon-eating contest. It is play of politics where, as that famous line says, nobody actually talks about politics, and a romance thoroughly unromantic.
The story is typical high-farce. Rising politician Sir Robert Chiltern is an upstanding man of public life who claimed power and respect through seedy means, forcing him to confront the blackmail of a gold-digging vamp, seek advice from his bachelor playboy best friend and protect his marriage to a proud but unknowing wife. Around him, British high society does what British high society does, with razor-sharp wit and hilarious-in-hindsight misogyny tangled in a web of silly airs and graces.
The writing absolutely crackles, at rapid-fire pace. Wilde's tongue is sharp even in a contemporary context. Who has mocked the politics of Western society and relationships so contemptuously and so mortally since?
In theatrical terms it probably doesn't take much to make this script come alive. On a rehearsal-like stage with minimal props (designed by director Timothy Wallace quite specifically to represent the starkly naked vapidity of the scene) the cast is pitch-perfect. It would be unfair to single any of the mostly young, locally-trained actors out, but they succeed through sheer enthusiasm and a communicable love for the material.
And yes there was the odd flubbed line. The 120-odd seats are a little uncomfortable. And the cast has to compete with three whirring air conditioners. But there's something quaint about buying a photocopied program and having tea and biccies at intermission. And in a nicely awkward way, I couldn't imagine losing my Wilde virginity with anyone else.
Go and see An Ideal Husband. Support a theatre troop of talented players who deserve an audience. And guffaw to the canny cadence of Wilde. It's great fun.
Starlight Theatre Co-operative present
AN IDEAL HUSBAND
by Oscar Wilde
Directed by Timothy Wallace
Venue: Centre Stage Theatre | 25 Quarry Street, Spring Hill
Dates: 5-21 February 2009
Tickets: Adult $24.50, Conc $19.50, Child under 12 & groups of 15 or more $15.00
Bookings: Oztix 1300 762 545 | www.oztix.com.au