Suitcase Civilians’ current production; Wilde Tales, brings to life a series of short stories by Oscar Wilde. Adapted by Sepy Baghei, the show is an ensemble piece led by the ‘MC’ named V. She, along with her ‘company’ interact with the audience and re-enact stories for our entertainment. These include The Happy Prince, The Birthday of the Infanta, The Selfish Giant and The Nightingale and The Rose, as well as Wilde’s poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Despite being a fan of Wilde, I had not read any of his short stories and so was intrigued as to what their style would be. What I discovered is that they are similar to fairy tales; stories that appear light hearted and fun but have a darkness running through them and a lesson for us to learn.
As the (unfortunately very small) audience arrived and took their seats, the four actors, to a backdrop of funny music, positioned their props and did comical warm ups preparing for the performances. The format of the show meant that these characters interacted and joked with the audience, often appearing to ad-lib humorous lines. The show was performed in ‘The Space’, and Sepy Baghei made good use of the direction options this space provides. Weaving in and out of audience members, using the stage, doorways and balcony, the actors frequently changed the focus point, which kept the production exciting, particularly for the younger members of the audience. The use of props and music added lots of humour, giving it a pantomime-esque feeling.
The four actors (Ashley Pekri, Harriet Attwood, Heath Ivey- Law, Jade Allen) worked well together to build the emotional highs and lows. A few faltered on lines, although the casual rapport they had with the audience meant that these moments were able to be made light hearted. The character of V (Jade Allen) led the piece and frequently had repartee with the audience, making me question whether without her, the piece would be as appealing to older audiences. The show is aimed at all ages and although there are definitely underlying themes throughout Wilde’s stories that are very mature, the staging, costumes and props felt more suitable for a younger audience.
The theme that is most prominent in the stories told is the feeling of being an outsider, something that Wilde himself struggled with as a gay man. Each of the stories has a moral and the moments where the characters summarise or reflect over these morals are special. It is always important to think about the affect your words and actions have on others, so regardless of whether the piece felt more suitable for someone younger, there was still enough grit for it to be thought provoking for adults.
Wilde Tales is playing The Space until 10 April. For more information and tickets, see The Space website
Photo: I-Shun Lee