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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Brighton 2012 arrow More Lives Than One - Oscar Wilde
More Lives Than One - Oscar Wilde
Published on Tuesday, 22 May 2012

4 stars

St Margaret's Church (venue website)
17-20, 24-26 May, 8:30pm-9:40pm
Reviewed by Alice Ash

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 2-for-1 tickets for Friends of the Fringe members.

In a truly memorable performance by Leslie Clack, this one-man show triumphs with an exciting and energised look at the life and work of the infamous Oscar Wilde. I’ll admit that, arriving at St. Margaret’s Church, I was concerned by the small audience, the sparse set, and the single actor, who it was immediately obvious would be our only company for the night. Perhaps my rash cynicism was a product of my generation, used to being surrounded by flashing lights and women in sequined bikinis. But within minutes my viewpoint changed; instead of being disappointed by the lack of furore surrounding the show, I became excited about what the clearly-visionary Dear Conjunction Theatre Company could make of what they had to play with.

Indeed, the simple lighting, voiceover and music – sometimes jovial and sometimes horrifying – was often used far better than over-complicated or immensely subtle mood changes that I have seen in other performances. The effects give the audience a clear ‘feeling,’ leading us by the hand, in a way that I think is really fitting to storytelling. And storytelling, after all, was what the evening was all about. There was no escaping being plucked straight from your pew into the narrative, as our Wilde enthusiast lurched into the fascinating tale of the cult writer’s life.

Since Wilde is such an icon, I expected to nod my head in recognition of at least a few anecdotes, but in actuality they were all new to me. A combination of the less-beaten tales and the vigorous way they were told led to a much more enjoyable, less ‘touristy’ kind of evening.

The direction shows courage, in that it does not apologise for the production’s clearly limited means – but rather, flaunts it. The performance seemed to say, to me, we have no budget but we do not give two hoots (this is Rottingdean, so I’ll hold back from a more forthright expression). Absolutely every device that was available was used, and to its full potential.

The only criticism I would give would be that thread of the piece sometimes dissolved a little. Initially, I thought that More Lives Than One would be an autobiographical piece based solely around Wilde’s life, but part-way through our actor began to investigate Wilde’s works and give us a synopsis of several. It was great fun – and Leslie Clack’s enthusiasm and clear enjoyment in performing these literary masterpieces, just for us, was fantastic. However, I did feel that a link between the two parts could have been presented more clearly.

Mind you, the approach they’ve chosen has its rewards. In the midst of meditating on Wilde’s personal life, a sudden blood-curdling scream echoed around the church as the stage was bathed in red light. Get ready for Dorian Gray! The shock left me giddy with delight.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.