Venue: The Heron Theatre, Beetham, Cumbria
Date: Friday, 7th April
Wilde would have made a great chat show host and materialises as this in the production I attended by the Birmingham based production company Don’t Go Into the Cellar.
Written by actor-playwright Jonathan Goodwin who plays Wilde, the show uses the same format in the first and second half which includes audience interaction.
Mr Goodwin, sweeping onto the stage in a green velvet jacket and flowing cloak was every inch the gypsy academic of Arthur Ransome’s description in his bestselling book Oscar Wilde, a Critical Study.
Sali Graham as music hall legend Marie Lloyd was the perfect guest for Wilde, displaying an earthy warmth in an energetic performance bubbling with humour laced with innuendo.
Her cockney sparrow chatter interspersed wth old music hall favourite songs which she invited the audience to join in added an air of insouciance to the evening appropriate to the spirit of the stage host.
It was unfortunate the songs are so old that the audience were unable to rouse the atmosphere a notch as they did not know the words.
Nevertheless it all contributed to a sense of relaxation appropriate to the chat-show setting and engagingly tiny theatre.
In the second half I found myself invited onto the stage to perform simple actions with “Miss Lloyd” which gave a delightful flavour of old music hall fare.
The bite which the company promises was in the adapted stories of Wilde read by Mr Goodwin. At the end of The Happy Prince I was wiping away tears. The second story he performed was The Nightingale and the Rose.
Wilde’s masterpieces brought home the inequity, vacuous social matching and heartless materialism at the centre of Victorian England and Wilde’s recognition of the need for social change.
It was a charming evening whcih cut through to a darker world beyond the sparkle.
The ending is not to be missed.