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Friday, 31 July 2009

Wilde No More: Brian Bedford presents Ever Yours, Oscar

Ever Yours, Oscar
Compiled by Peter Wylde, from the letters of Oscar Wilde
Performed by Brian Bedford

The imagination behind the gothic horror story The Picture of Dorian Gray, the acute observations of society behind Lady Windermere’s Fan, the tenderness behind The Happy Prince and the quick wit behind The Importance of Being Earnest all belong to the same man, Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde.

That’s Oscar Wilde, to you and me. He of the Aesthetic Movement who became the “art for art’s sake” spokesman, the dandified dresser who proudly wore the green carnation, and the brilliant mind behind those excellent drawing-room comedies, stories and fairy tales. But that is just the stuff at the surface.

As Brian Bedford dramatically reads a selection of Wilde’s letters, the veneer of this artiste begins to crack, and a different person begins to shine through.

It may surprise you to learn that Oscar Wilde toured Canada and the United States as a lecturer, famously stating that California is “a little Italy – without its art”, and that his Mormon audiences were “very, very ugly”. That in Kansas he witnessed the auctioning off of the belongings of the just-executed Jesse James, and in Leadville, Colorado, he had a lode of silver named after him after he out-drank the local miners.

Would you be surprised to learn that Oscar Wilde – the man infamously imprisoned as a sodomite - was also married and had two sons to whom he was devoted, and his letters to them are tenderness itself? That, as an inmate, he was appalled at the cruel treatment of children and to anyone who showed them the tiniest bit of compassion, and tried to change that brutal system in a letter to The Daily Chronicle?

Oscar Wilde, the man, is revealed more through his letters than his plays, and Oscar Wilde, the human being, is exquisitely revealed by Brian Bedford as he perceptively reads from them. Some letters are full of the witticisms and quips that we associate with the playwright, others are gentle love letters to not only his wife but to “Bosie”, his lover, and yet others expose his growing unhappiness and troubled days. Mr. Bedford realizes each letter with great nuance and empathy, and makes one regret Oscar Wilde’s untimely passing at 46 years of age.

Ever Yours, Oscar continues in repertory only until August 29th at the Tom Patterson Theatre. (Tip: to get the best value of the season, choose a $10 seat – on the stage – and share the limelight with Mr. Bedford!)

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