Wilde Without the Boy at The Playground Theatre
After a six-month hiatus, theatres are starting to reopen. Audiences can finally return to their favourite venues and experience the excitement of attending live performances. The Playground Theatre, a relatively new addition to West London, welcomes visitors back with a series of short runs of various productions. The name of the venue, which is located where a bus depot once stood, is inspired by the idea of its being a space for experimentation, creativity and fun.
Wilde Without the Boy is a solo play focussing on the personal writings of Oscar Wilde. Penned during his final years, these compositions express his suffering and disillusionment. The first part of the show is a monologue taken from De Profundis, the touching letter that the Irish playwright addressed to his insensitive lover Lord Alfred Douglas, also known as Bosie. The original text, which was published posthumously, is edited and dramatised by Gareth Armstrong, and the role of Wilde is played by Gerard Logan.
The action is set in Reading Gaol on the eve of the titular subject’s release from prison. The writer has been sentenced to two years of incarceration for committing homosexual acts, and during this time he relives the troubled affair with Bosie in his mind, reflecting on the destructive effect it had on his professional life and mental wellbeing. Logan’s performance exhibits the actor’s deep and intimate knowledge of Wilde as well as the intense emotions behind his words. Although there’s little movement, Logan uses his voice and facial expressions to take the audience through the whirlwind of feelings that torment the author.
The second half is dedicated to Wilde’s poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, in which he narrates the execution of Charles Thomas Wooldridge and denounces the British penal system. As the author’s contempt turns toward a greater power, his tone hardens and the tempo shifts, becoming more urgent. Simon Slater‘s music accompanies the mood, adding another layer of pathos to the performance. The play tends to be physically static at times, lacking dynamism, but the content and Logan’s commitment make the production effective and valuable. Heartfelt and charged with poignancy, the show is essential viewing for anyone interested in Wilde’s writings and personal history.
Wilde Without the Boy is at The Playground Theatre from 25th September until 27th September 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.