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An ideal play for scandalous times

Friday, 09 August 2019

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Successful politician Sir Robert Chiltern has it all – money, power and the love of his adoring wife. But he also has a murky secret in his past that, if revealed, will ruin his career and marriage.

This might sound like a current #MeToo news item, in which a powerful man is undone by scandal and disgrace, but it is more than 100 years in the making. The fate of Sir Robert Chiltern is the plot of Oscar Wilde’s 1895 play, An Ideal Husband.

It is a fate that also sadly befell Wilde himself, who was arrested for gross indecency at the height of his fame, not long after An Ideal Husband premiered in London.

WAAPA’s production of An Ideal Husband will be performed by the 3rd Year Acting students in the Roundhouse Theatre from Friday, 23 to Thursday, 29 August.

The week-long run includes a matinee on Saturday, 24 August and a post-show discussion on Tuesday, 27 August, offering audiences the opportunity to enjoy a Q&A session with the cast.

Wilde’s comedy of manners about hypocritical standards in high-society London speaks to contemporary audiences about the gap between political and private morality.

“Like all of his work, An Ideal Husband celebrates Oscar Wilde's mastery of language, decadence and wit,” says Sydney-based guest director Priscilla Jackman, whose visit to WAAPA is generously supported by the D’Arcy Slater Foundation.

“Ultimately, however, this is a play with a rich poetic heart that questions notions of human fragility, forgiveness and unconditional love – perhaps more deeply than any other of his plays.”

Jackman was the inaugural winner of the Ensemble Theatre’s Sandra Bates Directing Award in 2016 and, as the recipient of the Berlin New Music Opera Award in 2017, worked at the Komische Oper Berlin under renowned Australian opera director Barrie Kosky.

Her many theatre credits include writing and directing the Sydney Theatre Company’s 2018 world premiere of Still Point Turning: The Catherine McGregor Story. This October she will direct another Australian STC premiere, White Pearl by Anchuli Felicia King.

Jackman describes how her current production of An Ideal Husband, while remaining a homage to Wilde's unique style and aesthetic, has been created for a 21st century audience.

“It is strikingly designed by WAAPA’s Design students, and staged with a visual innovation that will breathe new life into Wilde's work,” she says.

“This pulsing and vibrant production will provoke questions about identity, truth and love – while offering the audience a cracking great night at the theatre. It’s one which we hope Oscar himself would relish!”

Priscilla Jackman’s visit to WAAPA is generously supported by the D’Arcy Slater Foundation.

For all venue and performance details, please visit the An Ideal Husband performance web page.

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