The Importance Of Being Oscar

Saturday, 22 March, 1997

Performed by Simon Callow , he tells of the life of Oscar Wilde. He talks about his plays and poems and about his marriage and his gay tendencies. We hear of Wilde's conviction for being gay and the effects prison had on him , particularly when he is released. Oscar Wilde only lived for 46 years, but what an eventful and full life he seemed to have led . He had many friends and was a flamboyant character, but, after leaving prison he found living in the city no longer appealed to him. So he lived his remaining days in Europe where he died in France in 1900.

It was not a breathtaking performance from Callow, who lacked passion and fire, which resulted in you feeling a little bored. Although a lot of the stories and mimicking was fine, watching one man on stage for over two hours you really want a change of tempo at certain stages of the story. But there wasn't , the same tone was kept throughout. It was as if you were listening to someone reading from a book. I think the production could have been a lot better.

The play and Simon Callow's performance has received mixed reviews from the critics, The INDEPENDENT writes " ...The result is oddly frustrating....An excellent opportunity has been missed here. Callow's abilities as a mimic admittedly aren't infallible.." The SUNDAY TIMES was enthusiastic about play," Simon Callow performs Micheal McLiammoir's solo piece as a proud, unsentimental homage. He resists all the obvious temptations: he doesn't camp, and he doesn't attempt to impersonate either MacLiammoir or Wilde... it is one of the most enjoyable serious entertainments in London.". However, Bill Hagerty of THE NEWS OF THE WORLD says " Watching Simon Callow perform .... a one-man dramatic biography of Wilde, is like being harangued by a literary bore." Charles Spencer of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH writes "Callow, however, in an admirably unfussy production by Patrick Garland, repeatedly reaches to the heart of Wilde. The insouciant, unstoppable wit is there, but so too is the anger, the pain and the generosity of spirit."

As you can see, mixed reviews means some will find it a hit and others a miss. Personally I will not to rushing to see it again, but I noted Callow got a good reception from the audience, as most of them seemed to have enjoyed it.

(Darren Dalglish)

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