The Masks of Oscar Wilde

Aug 19 2022 | By More

★★★★☆     Accomplished

Greenside @ Riddles Court (Venue 16): Fri 5 – Sat 27 Aug 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Masks of Oscar Wilde, from Matchmaker Productions at Greenside @ Riddles Court, is an informative account of Wilde’s life. The play may not be the best structured work imaginable, but this production makes the most of it under difficult circumstances.

Shaul Ezer’s play takes the form of a lecture on Wilde by an academic, with constant interjections from an over-eager student, and mixes biographical information with dramatic reconstructions of the writer’s life.

Catherine Bisset and Conor O’Dwyer. Pic: Matchmaker

It is testament to the strength of a production when a stand-in for one of the performers can take part, script in hand, without interrupting the flow of proceedings. This is particularly true of a two-hander such as this, and Rebecca Fernie (replacing the indisposed Catherine Bisset) slotting in seamlessly.

This shows the strength of Jen McGregor’s direction, with the excellent Conor O’Dwyer interacting with Fernie as if this was the plan all along. O’Dwyer’s puppyish enthusiasm as a student contrasts wonderfully with his upper-class hauteur in the other sections. Fernie, meanwhile, is commendably poised and commanding, whether as the lecturer, as Wilde himself, or Lady Bracknell.

Most of the production’s faults lie in the original script. A great deal of it is straightforward exposition about Wilde’s life, which in so short a time is both too basic for the informed and too much of a barrage for the novice.

The dramatic interludes are much more successful. However, the excerpt from The Importance of Being Earnest (although beautifully done) is too long, and does tend to show up the comparative lack of sparkle elsewhere.

Catherine Bisset as Lady Bracknell. Pic: Matchmaker

The use of PowerPoint is a neat touch, with the pictures of Wilde with masks superimposed on his face particularly effective. The occasional glitch can easily be read as a telling comment on the way such technology tends to be badly used in academia.

The real drawbacks are things completely outside the production’s control. A noisy air-conditioning system ruins the mood at times.

There is also a good reason why Fringe venues operate a ‘no latecomers’ policy. It is one thing to have people entering a traditional theatre during a suitable break. To have a steady stream of audience members noisily entering a tiny studio space in full view of everyone (including the performers), up to three-quarters of the way through the performance, is frankly ridiculous.

None of this detracts seriously from a wonderfully achieved production, beautifully directed and acted.

Running time 50 minutes (no interval)
Greenside @ Riddles Court (Willow Studio), Riddles Court 322 Lawnmarket EH1 2PG (Venue 16)
Friday 5 – Saturday 27 August 2022 (not 14, 21)
Daily (not Suns 14 & 21): 14:00.
Information and tickets: Book here.

Company website:
Instagram: @matchmakertp
TikTok: @matchmakertp
Twitter: @MatchmakerTP

Conor O’Dwyer. Pic: Matchmaker


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