+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.

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 5 August)

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

What I learned from Johnny Bevan (Summerhall, 7 – 30 Aug : 16.55 : 1hr)

“A simple story, powerfully written, mesmerisingly performed”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars: Outstanding

Sometimes I feel I should just give up. I see a show like this that makes me think theatre can’t get any better, so why should I bother going to see anything else? This absolute gem of a show, performed in a tucked away little room at an old veterinary college, is exactly why I keep coming back.

The story follows Nick, a young man from a wealthy background, who is desperate to shake off his family shackles and cultural expectations and discover his own identity at university. There he meets Johnny Bevan – the intelligent, bohemian philosopher from a council estate who opens up that new world Nick has been looking for. And while their initial connection is electric, years later when the two meet again, can Nick save Johnny from the tortured soul he’s become, or does Nick actually need saving from his consumerist lifestyle as a writer in London?

The writing of this piece is some of the best I have ever come across. Part poem, part epic monologue, it oozes style and professionalism, while sounding completely natural when performed. The story arch is perfectly framed, and never once feels indulgent or rushed. Every word is carefully selected to portray character and develop the story, with rhythm and selected rhyming that make it very easy to connect with. My favourite line was when Nick described going to meet Johnny “over lentil-based cuisine”, while some of the digs and views on modern society are captured with terrifying accuracy and wit.

The writing would mean very little, however, were it not for the incredibly emotive and gutsy performance from Luke Wright. He captures Nick’s naive early years, his coming-of-age at university with Johnny, and perhaps most mesmerisingly of all, his look back at the those touching moments and unhappiness with who he has become. Throughout the piece he talks directly to the audience, often very up close, which really engages and brings a sense of honesty to the piece. At select moments he looks back the the projected backdrop in reflection or shame, while his physicality captures every nuance of the characters and situations being presented. It is a truly masterful performance.

The technical aspects of the show are simple, but perfectly sympathetic with the script and style with which it is performed. Hand drawn images projected onto the backdrop show the setting of each scene, while subtle changes in lighting accentuate the mood perfectly. Anything more would detract from the piece’s overall power.

This is a simple story that is powerfully written and mesmerisingly performed – I cannot recommend it highly enough.

 

outstanding

StarStarStarStarStar

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 15 August)

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THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED