November 23, 2011

An Ideal Husband

The play opens during a dinner party at the home of Sir Robert Chiltern in London's fashionable Grosvenor Square. Sir Robert, a prestigious member of the House of Commons, and his wife, Lady Chiltern, are hosting a gathering that includes his friend Lord Goring, a dandified bachelor and close friend to the Chilterns, Mabel Chiltern, and other genteel guests. During the party, Mrs. Cheveley, an enemy of Lady Chiltern from their school days, attempts to blackmail Sir Robert into supporting a fraudulent scheme to build a canal in Argentina. Apparently, Mrs. Cheveley's late mentor and lover, Baron Arnheim, induced the young Sir Robert to sell him a Cabinet secret - which enabled Arnheim to buy shares in the Suez Canal Company three days before the British government announced its purchase of the company. Arnheim's payoff was the basis of Sir Robert's fortune, and Mrs. Cheveley has Robert's letter to Arnheim as proof of his crime. Fearing the ruin of both career and marriage, Sir Robert submits to her demands.

When Mrs. Cheveley pointedly informs Lady Chiltern of Sir Robert's change of heart regarding the canal scheme, the morally inflexible Lady Chiltern, unaware of both her husband's past and the blackmail plot, insists that Sir Robert renege on his promise to Mrs. Chevely. For Lady Chiltern, their marriage is predicated on her having an "ideal husband"—that is, a model spouse in both private and public life that she can worship: thus Sir Robert must remain unimpeachable in all his decisions. Sir Robert complies with the lady's wishes and apparently seals his doom. Also toward the end of Act I, Mabel and Lord Goring come upon a diamond brooch that Lord Goring gave someone many years ago. Goring takes the brooch and asks that Mabel inform him if anyone comes to retrieve it.

In the second act, which also takes place at Sir Robert's house, Lord Goring urges Sir Robert to fight Mrs. Cheveley and admit his guilt to his wife. He also reveals that he and Mrs. Cheveley were formerly engaged. After finishing his conversation with Sir Robert, Goring engages in flirtatious banter with Mabel. He also takes Lady Chiltern aside and obliquely urges her to be less morally inflexible and more forgiving. Once Goring leaves, Mrs. Cheveley appears, unexpected, in search of a brooch she lost the previous evening. Incensed at Sir Robert's reneging on his promise, she ultimately exposes Sir Robert to his wife once they are both in the room. Unable to accept a Sir Robert now unmasked, Lady Chiltern then denounces her husband and refuses to forgive him.

In the third act, set in Lord Goring's home, Goring receives a pink letter from Lady Chiltern asking for his help, a letter that might be read as a compromising love note. Just as Goring receives this note, however, his father, Lord Caversham, drops in and demands to know when his son will marry. A visit from Sir Robert, who seeks further counsel from Goring, follows. Meanwhile, Mrs. Cheveley arrives unexpectedly and, misrecognised by the butler as the woman Goring awaits, is ushered into Lord Goring's drawing room. While she waits, she finds Lady Chiltern's letter. Ultimately, Sir Robert discovers Mrs. Cheveley in the drawing room and, convinced of an affair between these two former lovers, angrily storms out of the house.

When she and Lord Goring confront each other, Mrs. Cheveley makes a proposal. Claiming to still love Goring from their early days of courtship, she offers to exchange Sir Robert's letter for her old beau's hand in marriage. Lord Goring declines, accusing her of defiling love by reducing courtship to a vulgar transaction and ruining the Chilterns' marriage. He then springs his trap. Removing the diamond brooch from his desk drawer, he binds it to Cheveley's wrist with a hidden lock. Goring then reveals how the item came into her possession. Apparently Mrs. Cheveley stole it from his cousin, Mary Berkshire, years ago. To avoid arrest, Cheveley must trade the incriminating letter for her release from the bejewelled handcuff. After Goring obtains and burns the letter, however, Mrs. Cheveley steals Lady Chiltern's note from his desk. Vengefully she plans to send it to Sir Robert misconstrued as a love letter addressed to Goring. Mrs. Cheveley exits the house in triumph.

The final act, which returns to Grosvenor Square, resolves the many plot complications sketched above with a decidedly happy ending. Lord Goring proposes to and is accepted by Mabel. Lord Caversham informs his son that Sir Robert has denounced the Argentine canal scheme before the House. Lady Chiltern then appears, and Lord Goring informs her that Sir Robert's letter has been destroyed but that Mrs. Cheveley has stolen her note and plans to use it to destroy her marriage. At that moment, Sir Robert enters while reading Lady Chiltern's letter, but as the letter does not have the name of the addressee, he assumes it is meant for him, and reads it as a letter of forgiveness. The two reconcile. Lady Chiltern initially agrees to support Sir Robert's decision to renounce his career in politics, but Lord Goring dissuades her from allowing her husband to resign. When Sir Robert refuses Lord Goring his sister's hand in marriage, still believing he has taken up with Mrs. Cheveley, Lady Chiltern is forced to explain last night's events and the true nature of the letter. Sir Robert relents, and Lord Goring and Mabel are permitted to wed.

Director  -  Phill Brown
Assistant Director  -  Loretta Concannon
Producer - Stella Turner

Cast
James  -  Paul Kerswill
Lady Cheveley  -  Lou Robinson
Lady Gertrude Chiltern  -  Janet Tackley
Lady Markby  -  Judy McDonnell
Lord Arthur Goring  -  Michael Tackley
Mabel Chiltern  -  Yvonne Taylor
Mason  -  Anton Jungreuthmayer
Mrs Marchmont  -  Jill Rogers
Phipps  -  Peter Donovan
Sir Robert Chiltern  -  Mark Sadler
The Countess of Basildon  -  Lucinda Rowe
The Earl of Caversham  -  Aidan Dwyer
Vicomte de Nanjac  -  Chris Carrell

Crew
Assistant Director  -  Loretta Concannon
Costumes  -  Amanda Vines
Costumes  -  Beth Harding
Costumes  -  Valmai Guess
Director  -  Phill Brown
Front of House  -  Val Bryant
Front of House  -  Rosie Hamilton-McLeod
Front of House  -  Ann Fausset
Front of House  -  Victoria Turner
Front of House  -  Clare Easterbrook
Front of House  -  Julie Dawson
Front of House  -  Viv Tyler
Front of House  -  Sophie Davies
Front of House  -  Kevin Quinn
Front of House  -  Janet Quinn
Hair  -  Fran Manning
Hair  -  Amanda Vines
Hair  -  Justine McCreith
Lighting  -  Nicola Stammers
Lighting  -  Debbie Bassnett
Photography  -  Dave Woodward
Photography  -  Rupert Hennen
Producer  -  Stella Turner
Programme Design  -  Sarah Oliver
Prompt  -  Susie Welch
Props  -  Vanessa Cole
Props  -  Jackie Cowan
Props  -  Sue Kennedy
Props  -  Gena Edwards
Publicity  -  Peter Donovan
Set Construction  -  Dudley Gentle
Set Construction  -  Dave Tinney
Set Construction  -  Graham Gibbs
Set Design  -  Anton Jungreuthmayer
Set Design  -  Graham Gibbs
Set Painting  -  Jackie Cowan
Set Painting  -  Sue Kennedy
Set Painting  -  Max Cooper
Set Painting  -  Jacob Wood
Set Painting  -  Victoria Turner
Set Painting  -  Paul Turner
Set Painting  -  Rebecca Turner
Set Painting  -  Chris Carrell
Set Painting  -  Dave Tinney
Set Painting  -  Aidan Dwyer
Set Painting  -  Graham Gibbs
Set Painting  -  Stella Turner
Set Painting  -  Penny Picken
Sound  -  Peter Johnson
Sound  -  Daniel Eccles
Stage Crew  -  Paul Kerswill
Stage Crew  -  Gavin Worsey
Stage Crew  -  James Vaughan
Stage Manager  -  Anton Jungreuthmayer
Ticket Sales  -  Pirton Village Stores

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