The Original theatre Company with actor Alistair Whatley brought their acclaimed one-man show The Importance of Being Oscar to the Theatre Royal for just one night. It was wonderful and Whatley delivered the key points in Oscar Wilde’s life and art with verve, dedication and style in a wonderful stage setting, loads of clever props, a clever sound and visual plot designed by Victoria Spearing.
I was lost in admiration for this actor and production company and happy to be once again in the glorious company of a larger than life character.
Many years ago, I was lucky to have seen the originator of the work, the flamboyant Michael MacLiammour perform the piece and Whatley recreated for me the pity and love for the work. MacLiammoir back in the sixties wanted to focus attention on the achievements and genius of Wilde and at the same time legitimise his own difference.
Whatley caught the gaudy glory of the posing aesthete, the Green Carnation, the dramatic picture of Dorian Gray, Lady Bracknell and the early theatrical successes prior to the sleazy revelations in the famous trials.
Part two opened with the verdict and sentence to two years hard labour. The sadness of the De Profundis – out of the depths of despair – cut right into the audience. Whatley added humour to underscore the tragedy but the measured reading from The Ballad of Reading Gaol. I remember visiting that place but was not allowed inside that place as it was a young offenders remand centre.
I re-read both De Profundis and The Ballad today prior to writing this piece and was filled again with a cold chill of pity at the foolishness of genius and the false importance of celebrity.
Here’s hoping the Theatre Royal will bring this fine company back with more good work.