The Masks of Oscar Wilde

Occasionally humorous, this is a well-formed exploration of Wilde’s life, loves and works. It is formed as a lecture from a professor – played by Catherine Bisset – and her rebellious student, played by Conor O’Dwyer. The script flits between discussions between these two, devised scenes from Wilde’s life, and extracts from his writings. In fact, the best part of the performance is a scene from The Importance Of Being Earnest.

A well-meaning tribute to Oscar Wilde from a theatre company passionate about his works and legacy

The play falters in its use of a PowerPoint presentation accompanying the lecturer's lesson. Much like trying to read the bottom line at the opticians, this PowerPoint is not projected largely enough for any of the text to be read. Additionally, the editing on it, placing Wilde's face onto different scenes seems unprofessional, inconsistent with the lecture format. The worst culprit of this shows Wilde on his deathbed, his face poking out the top of a bed with x’s atop his eyes.

The tension between the professor and the student is not hugely engaging, and the script explores the controversies of Wilde’s life as if they are still regarded as something that diminishes his legacy today. While rough around the edges, the show does not drag and the writing for scenes with Wilde is witty where the lecturer and student lack depth. Instead, they act as conduits to express his story, and this story is the reason to buy a ticket.

The Masks Of Oscar Wilde is a good watch for any Wilde aficionados and those interested in queer history.

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Reviews by Ben Johanson

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The Blurb

Man of letters. Aesthete. Victorian moralist. Playwright. Oscar Wilde wore many masks. But as a well–meaning professor and his eager student trace the life of the legendary writer, it becomes clear there may be more masks waiting in the shadows. As they dig deeper, we begin to wonder. Are they hiding something? What if some masks are better left in the shadows? A test of wits, of "truth", and an examination of the fabulous and scandal-ridden life of Oscar Wilde and the man behind the masks.

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