1996-ish. Canberra-ish. Artie Whig (Will Carseldine) is facing an uncertain future, about to be cut off by his no-nonsense father John (Kevin Hides). Unless he marries and finds a career, the young gadabout can kiss his allowance goodbye. Meanwhile, Minister for the Environment Robyn Shi (Hsiao-Ling Tang) and her advisor Gertrude (an absolute scene-stealing Emily Burton) are about to receive a visit from a shadowy figure, speaking on behalf of the real power behind Australian democracy. Turns out Robyn’s campaign to save an endangered species might just endanger her own career. Oh, yes, there are plenty of snakes lurking in the Canberra grass – or should that be legless lizards?
Drawing room comedy, political intrigue, and outright farce join together in Lewis Treston‘s hilarious take on Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. Directed by Bridget Boyle, it’s a delicious theatrical romp, elevated by fantastic performances and an irresistible 90s setting. The wit is quick and the abandoning of morals quicker, as every member of this motley crew (rounded out by Billy Fogarty as Artie’s bestie Mabel, Kevin Spink as lovesick journalist Douglas, Patrick Jhanur as political player Lucian, and Christen O’Leary pulling double duty as Dame Tara Markby and… well, you’ll see) battle the system, each other, and themselves to get ahead.
Everyone shines but its hard to get past Burton and her fellow scene-stealer, the legendary O’Leary. O’Leary is an absolute delight, and to say more might just ruin some of An Ideal Husband‘s best comedy set-ups – better buy tickets if you want to find out! Burton, too, is a constant joy to watch, with wicked comic timing and powerful physical comedy to match. Staged in the round, it’s expected that the audience will miss a facial expression or two, but Burton makes sure that even when her back is turned, we get the full Gertrude Chiltern experience.
From start to finish, An Ideal Husband is incredible fun, and a major coup for Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre. A retelling of a 1895 play, packed with 1990s references, that still manages to both make incisive commentary AND the audience howl with laughter? Fantastic stuff. Miss it at your peril.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
An Ideal Husband runs at La Boite Theatre until August 6th. Tickets and more info HERE.
Photo credit: Morgan Roberts