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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Newbury Dramatic Society - An Ideal Husband

19th to 22nd November 2003.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

NDS show great initiative

Newbury Dramatic Society: Arms and the Man - The Watermill, 19th to 22nd November 2003

Oscar Wilde’s play deals with corrupt politicians and the threat of press exposure – appropriate for today. Sir Robert Chiltern, a prominent MP, acquired his fortune through insider trading, and Mrs Cheveley arrives from Vienna to blackmail him. The play looks at the effects this has on the relationship between Chiltern and his wife and the false impressions and expectations that couples have of each other.

As usual with Wilde, the characters are drawn from the aristocracy of late 19th century England. Although it isn’t necessary for the actors to have cut-glass accents (as we have seen on the television recently with Henry VIII), they do need to have a lot of stage presence, and the cast here succeeded to varying degrees. Ed Roberts, as the foppish Lord Goring, had just the right amount of suave superciliousness; he had most of the witticisms and the contrast between these and his more serious side was good. As his father, the crusty peer Lord Caversham, Colin Benham was perfectly cast, showing charm and good manners to everyone except his son.

Andy Hamer and Ursula Taylor, as Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern were less convincing. These were the two major parts, and they needed more passion and power.

Chris Horton, as the air-head Lady Markby, burbled on splendidly, leaving a trail of excess words in her wake. Kathleen Sharrett played the devious Mrs Cheveley. This was a complex part, and she was very convincing in it – you could see how men would be entranced by her and women would hate her.

Zandra Forder played the Chiltern’s niece Mabel with a pretty coquettishness that was ideal for the part. As the two butlers, Julian Dickins and Mike Cole had the right degree of hauteur and contempt. Other parts were played by Fennella Newton, Jay Andrews and Ava Nepute.

The set was dominated by the huge staircase which effectively reduced the size of the acting area to a small strip at the front. The costumes were good – I particularly liked Lord Caversham’s check jacket and weskit.

Director Ann Davidson drew on talent from many amateur groups in the area – a great initiative by NDS that I hope they will repeat.