According to Oscar
Mayfield Salisbury Church
6pm (run ends 9th Aug)
The Mercators annually present a Fringe tribute to a famous author. They are an amateur group in Mayfield, and this year they are doing Oscar Wilde. We were told at the beginning that there would be a focus on Constance, Wilde’s wife, and his devotion to her. I do not recall hearing the love that then dared not speak its name actually mentioned during the show, though there were references to Bosie. Constance was, as was stated, an early feminist and liberal speaker and activist – as, more notably, was Wilde’s mother, and she was also an Irish nationalist. It’d be good to see a Fringe show about her one day.
We began with an early Wilde childrens’ story, The Remarkable Rocket. This contained a number of characteristic Wildean aphorisms. It was primarily a rehearsed reading. We then had parts of An Ideal Husband, De Profundis (nothing about the circumstances of the writing of that, of course), Lady Windermere’s Fan and of course, The Importance of Being Earnest. It was different seeing the final scene where Gwendolyn is the only young person, and when it was over I could not recall hearing the famous, “handbag!” exclamation.
This was an amateur group doing their annual obeisance to literature, and they have done Austen, Barrie, Stevenson and so on before. I wonder what they made of the circumstances of those writers, who were all pretty full-blooded in their way. Famous writers very often live intensely, break society’s rules, and show us new possibilities in life. It does no-one any good to pretend they were safe, conformist and unthreatening. That way, the excitement of literature is lost. With Wilde, the group chose to omit one of the central aspects of his life, though what they did emphasise was significant. Yes, he did live a bisexual life – ah, but we did not hear that word.
It is very good that local groups in all areas maintain the memory of significant writers, and much effort and enjoyment will have gone in to the preparation of what I saw. However, I did feel that I was spending time in the past during the show, that I could have been a child in the 1950s watching a show about Wilde, and that was very sad.