+3 Review: Wilde Without the Boy (Assembly Hall: 4-29 Aug: 11.00: 1hr)

“Masterfully delivered by Gerard Logan”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars

In this one-man adaptation of De Profundis by Oscar Wilde, we join the infamous writer in prison, shortly before his release. What unfolds over an hour is a real-time monologue, directed at his lover, reminiscing on their relationship and the events that led him to become incarcerated.

While masterfully delivered by Gerard Logan, the script is quite tricky to follow as it jumps about in referring to different events in the past, with precious little obvious through-line or connection from anecdote to anecdote. For a theatrical adaptation I would have preferred a more linear and logical approach to his musings to make it easier for Wilde novices to engage with, and give a sense of progression and journey that could be followed. The show also contains an excerpt from The Ballad of Reading Gaol which seems to come from nowhere, while various other dramatic moments (for example, a sudden mention of his mother’s death), seem to be thrown in for dramatic effect, without a clear link to the flow of the piece.

In saying that, the lyricism of the language is exquisite, and the whole piece retains everything we love about how Wilde writes. It includes plenty of pertinent detail including reference to several key turning points in Wilde’s later life and many gaps in my knowledge of the writer were more than adequately filled by the depth of biography covered.

While somewhat chaotic, the script does allow to demonstrate a full emotional range, so we get to see and know Wilde in every circumstance, from emotionally fragile, to proud, defiant, smitten and everything in between. Everything’s there, it’s just a little all over the place. Following last year’s triumph in The Rape of Lucrece, Logan has certainly lost none of his craft in delivering a very emotional and compelling performance and this is another very creditable showing.

Although perhaps a slightly unfair criticism, I can’t shake the feeling that this show is playing in the wrong venue – I think a dingier room somewhere in the caves or along the Cowgate would help more easily more establish the setting as a 19th century prison than the very obvious very studio feel of Assembly Hall’s Baillie Room. On this point I must make a special mention to the sound design, which was excellent in setting the scene to start with and giving background to the court case that landed Wilde in jail, and creating atmosphere at various other points throughout.

Overall, this is a production that doesn’t quite come together as well as it could have – the pieces don’t seem to fit. An exquisite performance and an interesting story, but a little unfulfilled.

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Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 5 August)