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An Ideal Hus­band Vaude­ville Theatre, London Un­til Jul 14, 2hrs 45mins

Fa­ther and son Ed­ward and Fred­die Fox have never acted on stage to­gether be­fore. Here they play a fic­tional fa­ther and son in this sparkler by Os­car Wilde. Ed­ward is the fo­gey earl, Fred­die his wastrel, un­mar­ried son, Lord Gor­ing. They drive each other nuts. It’s a bad re­la­tion­ship but a to­tally sweet dou­ble act.

Fox se­nior played this iras­ci­ble buf­fer four years ago, so he’s re­heated his per­for­mance. Now 81, he’s look­ing a bit frail be­neath his top­per, and his voice is so posh that ‘bach­e­lor’ comes out as ‘badger’. Pal­lid Fred­die proves a de­light as the witty young Lord Gor­ing. ‘To love one­self is the be­gin­ning of a life­long ro­mance,’ says this preen­ing dandy who con­ceals a heart of gold.

Melo­drama is fuel-in­jected by a scar­let woman, Mrs Cheve­ley. She has a com­pro­mis­ing let­ter that will bring down a politi­cian on the make (Nathaniel Parker) whose for­tune is built on a dodgy Suez Canal deal. Frances Bar­ber is elec­tric in her scenes with this ve­nal MP, whose choice is to save ei­ther his ca­reer or his mar­riage to an ador­ing, de­luded wife (Sally Bret­ton).

On a gilt and plush set, Su­san Hamp­shire bags plenty of laughs as an aristo whose mad as­ser­tions are unar­guable. But Wilde’s theme here is re­ally one of love. There are pierc­ing swoops of real feel­ing as the ac­tion reaches a glow­ingly happy end­ing that seems un­forced.

The two Foxes play a bel­ter in an evening that’s both Wildely charm­ing and warmly rec­om­mended.

★F★red★die★Fo★x as Lord Gor­ing and Ed­ward Fox as the Earl From left: Su­san Hamp­shire and Sally Bret­ton. Above: Ed­ward Fox with son Fred­die, also be­low

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