It is a cold and snowy night in St Hilary. I drive up to the village hall. All is quiet. I tap on the door. It creaks open…to expose a whole community packed into a warm space – already chatting and laughing and drinking tea. A blast of hot air and frivolity. An absolute treat to be amongst such a friendly bunch all ready to enjoy themselves. And enjoy ourselves we do.
You always think you know Oscar Wilde = that you are au fait with every quip and quiver but no, we all know so little of this clever writer, this scribe of human quirks.
Lord Arthur performed by Martin Harris is positively steaming with aristocratic lunacy – a Bateman come to life, facing out his audience and batting down his batman. Ah, Middlewick performed by Chris Bridgman. Valet, butler, gentleman’s gentleman,player of many parts. Subtle, farcical, multi-talented, the perfect foil.
They do not falter.
We are laughing from the off. We are relishing the peculiar gratification of recognising a line, a title, a character. And then it starts to take a tricky turn. We are being included. Not just eyeballed but persuaded onto the stage. Stage? A chair, a fireplace, a table and a stool just within the curve of our seating. A painting of Lady Savile, young Sybil in fine Edwardian garb, overseeing all of us. And we are suddenly nervous.
Cries of, Oooh I’m glad to be at the back, go out. We egg on our comrades to join in with that curious mixture of jealousy and relief. It is expertly handled. Hilarious! Properly one of the funniest theatrical experiences to be had. The temperature starts to climb. The macabre nature of the tale unfolds and we accept not only the dark side of our humour but the apparent ease with which the upper class is seen to accept its position outside of the law. Lord Arthur and Middlewick start to play with our sensibilities and we are sucked in. We are all in the clutches of the palmist.
D’you think authenticity is what they’re after in St. Hilary?Clearly not! We want more Lady Clem.
A slightly clunky trip to Venice requires us to take a break and enjoy wine and ice cream while the snow falls outside and the temperature rises inside.
In our cups, we rise to the panto atmosphere and settle into the second act with enthusiasm. Lord Arthur, driven to a carefully controlled distraction by his failure to commit murder, pushes on with Middlewick riding shotgun to the story telling. We are roaring with laughter and starting to wonder how it all will end.
And end it does. A sorry damp little ending, perhaps a bit like life itself.
And we are released into the cold, a lot warmer and a little wiser to the power of suggestibility to the gentler mind. It’s all been such nonsense…
There was an Old Person of Ems
Who casually fell in the Thames;
And when he was found, they said he was drowned,
That unlucky Old Person of Ems.
Bring these players into your home