+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)

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

The Rape of Lucrece (Assembly Hall : 10 – 31 Aug : 16:30 : 1hr)

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“Nothing short of breathtaking”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars Nae Bad

Watching actors tackle Shakespeare can usually be categorised into one of two columns: boring, or brilliant. The latter is much harder to find, which is why watching Gerard Logan’s performance of Shakespeare’s “The Rape of Lucrece” impressed me so thoroughly.

Throughout the narrative poem, which details one of the principal and ghastly acts which led to the founding of the Roman Republic, Logan’s time-honed professionalism shines. His dynamism is nothing short of breathtaking, filling each of the character roles in the work with almost uncanny shifts in energy; grief stricken one moment, and then furious the next without it ever feeling sporadic. This is a piece which has obviously been rehearsed and tweaked to the nth degree, and it shows.

And perhaps the most impressive facet of Logan’s performance was his verbal skill. His speed and dexterity meant that not only did Shakespeare’s Elizabethan writing lose none of it’s meaning, it lost none of it’s original intended impact. Even to someone who has never encountered Shakespeare before, this performance would be easily understandable and immensely enjoyable – at least, in a dramatic sense, given that the subject matter doesn’t easily lend itself to a happy mood.

However, Logan’s seemingly infinite stores of energy sometimes worked against him: certain flourishes in his physical performances, and the feverish speed of some movements, threatened to push select lines over the boundary from compelling to overwrought. And whilst these moments were few and far between in an otherwise well restrained performance, they were nevertheless noticeable.

But despite these small complaints, it was clear from the chatter after the show that the one-man performance was a clear hit – and I cannot say I disagree. Though it may not have made me into a lover of Shakespearean poetry yet, it’s nevertheless an artistic and directorial triumph.

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Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 9 August)

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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

I, Elizabeth (Assembly Roxy, Aug 7-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-31 : 11:45 : 1hr 15mins)

I, Elizabeth at Edinburgh Fringe Festival Banner

“Vaughn’s command of the stage is utterly iron-fisted.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars Nae Bad

The two hardest things as an actor, at least in my experience, are to memorise your lines and then make to them appear spontaneous and real. To do so without ever losing energy, alone and over a period of a straight hour is nothing short of astounding – and, a feat which Rebecca Vaughn pulls off as Queen Elizabeth nearly effortlessly.
I, Elizabeth is a monologue act pieced together from the Tudor Queen’s assorted letters, poems and private correspondence, and offers a glimpse into the chaotic and rich emotional life behind one of England’s most memorable rulers as presented by the Queen herself.

Vaughn’s character work is undeniably slick: she channels both regality and humility so realistically and so honestly that, even watching from the front, I often forgot I was watching an act at all. And even more impressive was her talent at making irregular, Tudor-style cadence not only make sense to a modern audience, but do it so well that it becomes compelling and, when she wants it to, genuinely funny. Unlike her character’s sometimes shaky political life, Vaughn’s command of the stage is utterly iron-fisted.

But Vaughn’s considerable talent cannot suspend reality by itself, and was aided by a very talented makeup and costume team; the result being a costume with such substance and attention to detail that it wouldn’t have looked out of place in a high-budget period drama. However, just as Vaughn portrayed a partly flawed monarch, so did her performance. Occasionally her emotional energy bordered on the melodramatic, and her tight emotional u-turns sometimes meant that gaps of monologue were lost as the volume increased. And perhaps I’m simply not smart enough to understand it, but some of the tech decisions- particularly a strange, electrical jolting sound to punctuate the monologue – seemed utterly out of place in what was otherwise a very faithful historical recreation, and sometimes completely broke the show’s atmosphere.

Despite these shortcomings, the rest of the show was nothing short of regal. Vaughn should be praised for her unmistakeable dedication to character work. Short of necromancy, it seems she is the woman to call for bringing the long dead back to complex, compelling life.

 

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Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 7 August)

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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED