Wednesday, 31 May 2000
Believe Me, Oscar Wilde, May 31, 2000
by Barry Dickins
La Mama, From May 31, 2000
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Believe me, Oscar Wilde had a helluva life and a hellish ending. Barry Dickins' play, Believe Me, Oscar Wilde, tears at the scab which thinly covers the horror of Wilde's last days.
Dickins himself, like Wilde, was born a writer and an eccentric, so who better to write about his exploits, his world, his mind, art and his pain?
Dickins wordplay differs from Wilde's, but it is complementary. His teasing of language and his poignant, poetic Australianisms are cosy mates for Wilde's "bob mots" and "epigrams". They act as a perfect vehicle for Wilde to take flight anew.
The 65-minute solo play is performed by Sam Sejavka, himself a playwright, and directed with great flair by Lynne Ellis. Lighting (Adam J Howie) and sound design (Nadav Rayman, Boyd Korab) create the complex noise in Oscar's head.
The script is a composite of Oscar and seven characters who were instrumental in his later life. These include his loyal friend Robbie Ross, righteous wife Constance, the magistrate who condemned him, a youthful rent boy, his son Vivien, Bosie his lover and his Paris landlord.
Sejavka as Wilde, is entrapped in Christina Smith's design of a cell-like space, littered with notepaper, old burnt furniture and the odd piece of frippery. We witness the last of his two years hard labour in Reading Gaol after he was convicted, to his amazement, for sodomy.
Wilde believed his life was charmed right up until his conviction when he was abandoned by wife, lover, street boys, London society and his adoring audience.
This is a well-structured and sensitively written homage to Wilde. His pain cries out through Dickins' own words while his abandonment and ostracism are visible through the other characters.
Wilde's genius is referred to but, in this period of grief, his wit causes him excruciating pain. It too has abandoned him.
This is a very challenging piece for an actor alone on stage with nothing but a sea of lively and colourful words for company. Sejavka hits the mark with the rent boy and he certainly imbues Oscar with a contemporary, witty, camp humour.
However, he is not able successfully to transform into so many characters. He seems uncomfortable and lacks the necessary range.
By Kate Herbert