Monday, 19 July 2010

Heroes and Villains - An Ideal Husband

I wish I knew how to write a play. It is as incomprehensible to me as composing, painting or even making decent pastry! You can either do it or you can't. The thing about a play is that you can see it over and over again because each time it is put on it is different because of the director, because of the actors, because of the venue, the circumstances, even the audience alters it and there is always something new in it, something you hadn't seen before, especially in a play like this which is so brilliantly written that it unfolds before you, layer after layer, like an onion every time.
An Ideal Husband is my favourite play and last Saturday night when I was staying nearby I went to Dunham Massey, one of the National Trust's most glorious houses to see an outdoor production of the Oscar Wilde play.  Almost always when I go to things like this it rains but Saturday evening was warm and the light was perfect. We trudged from the car park, through the grounds with fold up seats, a picnic and our umbrellas, just in case.
The people putting on the play were called Heartbreak Productions and can be contacted at and they were wonderful.  It was theatre in the round which I had never seen before and imagine most difficult to direct and play but they did it beautifully.  Five actors, each with two parts, in a kind of Upstairs Downstairs way, they  played a main part and that of a servant, the servants dressing up and becoming the aristocrats.
The Orangerie

The point of the play is that there is no such thing as an ideal husband though Lord Goring, for all his imperfections, is great fun and if I could have him I'd be very pleased - rich, indolent, witty, wears a suit well, and is smarter than anybody else. I put him into my books all the time though very often he has a profession. He's Bertie Wooster and Mr Darcy - though I have to say I prefer the villains in Jane Austen, I love Willoughby and Wickham and try to give my heroes flaws. I always want to rewrite Pride and Prejudice so that Elizabeth marries Wickham who is much more fun than Mr Darcy. Heathcliff is too much the villain for my comfort and when it comes to the Brontes I prefer The Tenant ofWildfell Hall and the farmer Helen meets, Gilbert Markham.         
Five minutes before the end of the play it began to rain very heavily but briefly and they stopped while people donned macs, and then carried on to rapturous applause.

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