Robert Tanitch reviews Wilde Creatures at Vaudeville Theatre
Dominic Dromgoole is presenting a year-long season of plays by Oscar Wilde at Vaudeville. Theatre. A Woman of No Importance is on now. Lady Windermere’s Fan, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest follow in 2018 in repertory.
During December, late morning and early afternoon, there are performances of four of Wilde’s classic fairy tales.
Wilde said his stories “were partly for children and partly for those who have kept their childlike faculties of wonder and joy; and who find in simplicity a subtle strangeness.”
It is not the first time his fairy tales have been performed. There have been plays, ballets, operas, puppets and animated cartoons.
Tall Stories Theatre Company is presenting Wilde Creatures, a talented band of storytellers who are also actors and musicians.
The writer/director is Olivia Jacobs and the stage is filled with wooden crates which, when opened, reveal loads of flowers.
Matt Jopling, Tom Jude, Steve McCourt and Lauren Silver act out four tales: The Happy Prince, The Devoted Friend, The Nightingale and the Red Rose and The Birthday of the Infanta.
The Happy Prince tells of Swallow’s love for a Prince, a beautiful statue, who is gilded all over in gold. The statue sacrifices all his riches for the poor people of the city. The Swallow, who intended to spend the winter abroad, doesn’t desert him and dies of cold.
The Devoted Friend, an ironic title, is about a treacherous miller who takes advantage of kindness and naivety of Lille Hans by pretending to be his friend when he is nothing of the sort.
A Nightingale sacrifices her life by pressing her heart against the thorns of a white rose, so that a shallow young student can give “the reddest red rose in the world” to an ungrateful young woman.
A dwarf is brought to the Spanish court to dance for the Infanta’s twelfth birthday and he falls in love with her. He catches sight of himself in a mirror for the first time in his life and does not realize at first that the horribly ugly person he sees is himself.
You don’t need to have read Wilde’s fairy tales to enjoy this show; but it would be a good idea for child and parent to read them after they have seen it and enjoy the richness of Wilde’s prose.
These stories of love, self-sacrifice and death are so much more heartbreaking on the printed page because the characterisations of swallow, prince, nightingale, student and dwarf are so much more substantial.