Wilde Tales, The Space Arts Centre - Review

“Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word...

Oscar Wilde

When I was a small child, three animated adaptations left an indelible mark on me: EB White's Charlotte's Webb, Rudyard Kipling's Rikki Tikki Tavi and one of Oscar Wilde's stories: The Happy Prince. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIwupcYwimY Similar to the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson, Wilde's stories had an underlying darkness, but unlike say, The Little Mermaid (Anderson's version not Disney's), Wilde's tales offered a measure of hope, even with sad endings.

With this in mind, theatre company Suitcase Civilians have staged of several of Wilde's short stories, all directed by Sepy Baghaei. Performed by Jade Allen, Harriett Atwood, Heath Ivey-Law and Ashley Pekri, their adaptations often have a comedic bent, lightening the tone inbetween the more serious elements of the stories.

"Yet each man kills the thing he loves"... Sounds very Nietzschean, but this is a sentiment that bookends the evening. Performing The Birthday of the Infanta, The Happy Prince, The Selfish Giant, The Nightingale and the Rose, as well the Wildean-inspired The Ten Thousand Roses, Suitcase Civilians' respectful, yet inventive versions of these time-honoured tales show that Wilde's work are a natural fit for theatre. These short stories also serve as a reminder that Wilde was more than just adept at witty aphorisms, but an astute observer of the human condition, acutely aware of the habitual ease to only look at the surface of things.

Making a show that's suitable for all the family, yet appealing to adults isn't the easiest thing, but Suitcase Civilians by staying true to themselves and what they find entertaining, have found a balance that's hard to achieve.

© Michael Davis 2016

Wilde Tales runs at the Space Arts Centre, London. E14 until 10th April 2016 (Sat at 7:30pm, Sun at 4:00pm). The company will also host a post-show ‘Lates’ event on Saturday 9th April, including an informal chat with the cast and creative team.



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