Because of his historical significance we know much about Oscar Wilde, playwright, wit, man about town and sodomite. We know he was infatuated by his muse Lord Alfred Douglas, or “Bosie” to his friends, but perhaps we know a lot less about Bosie himself. Rik Barnett corrects that with this play.
Not only writer, but Rik Barnett also has an outing as the subject of this short, but sharp piece of theatre being staged as part of the Manchester festival.
First a mention of the venue. The Fitzgerald advertises itself as a “speakeasy” bar and with an entrance of Little Lever Street in the city northern quarter, the heavy dark doors set the scene well. The performance space on the first-floor suits this play very well but might be a bit limiting to other ventures. I look forward to seeing how it develops. But, for Bosie it suits his exile and limited circumstances very well.
Indeed, the production is strangely expanded beyond the confines of the performance area. Clever use of a travel trunk is a staging triumph. Not even rock music from an adjacent venue could affect the atmosphere director Tuirenn Hurstfield creates.
As a one-person show, there is nowhere for the actor playing Bosie to hide for the entire, if short, production, but Mr Barnett does not need to hide anywhere. This is a tour de force performance that, whilst lacking in pitch and pace at the start, quickly develops into a performance of great stature. In turn, we get to know petulant Bosie, louche Bosie, predatory Bosie, spoilt Bosie and caring Bosie. From seeing this play, I know more about Lord Alfred Douglas and the morally hypocritical family and times in which he lived. This history lesson was delivered by a script which was at times as witty as anything Oscar Wilde himself wrote.
It is appropriate in a week when there is so much speculation everywhere as to who the “BBC presenter is”, that we learn about the twists and turns of Wilde’s downfall after his exposure by Bosie’s father, the Marquess of Queensbury. Perhaps history does repeat itself because of his and our prurient interest in the lives of the famous.
This production has a short run as part of The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival until Thursday 13th July, so don’t hang about. However, I hope it gets further outings (see what I did there) at other venues and festivals. It deserves it. https://www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk/
Reviewer: Phil Edwards
Reviewed: 10th July 2023
North West End UK Rating: