Two of Oscar Wilde's plays premiered in the West End at Theatre Royal Haymarket - A Woman of No Importance in 1892 and An Ideal Husband in 1895.
What WIldeness! A year and a half ago we resolved to take on this project of unique scale and ambition - to perform all of Wilde’s major plays, and to encase them in a representation of all of the different sides of this incredible artist and human.
Here are some numbers, which is not a very Oscar way to proceed, but gives pleasure nevertheless.
Number of shows…. 7
Number of actors engaged….. 70
Number of shows in the Vaudeville all told… 406
Number of audience in the Vaudeville…. 171,000
Number of cinemas the live broadcasts have screened in thus far… 650
Number of audience in cinemas…. 140,000 and rising
And that is before we try to enumerate the number of laughs. Or the number of moments when the audience drew breath at the sharp relevance of an Oscar thought. Or the number of times when his words or his stories enlarged our understanding of the theatre and the world, then and now.
And what a celebration of proscenium acting! It has been a delight to relish the astonishing technical skill of so many of our actors; Annie Reid and Eleanor Bron’s delightful rhythms of truth and wit; Simon Callow excavating the depths of Wilde’s brutal honesty in De Profundis; Jennifer Saunder’s quick and fleet truth behind her comic persona; the Fox pere et fils performing their matchless double act; Pippa Nixon and Fiona Button nailing the late Victorian tone. Plus many, many more. This is acting in a great tradition, truth and character and wit dancing together, and it has been a privilege to be close to it.
And what bravura turns from Eve Best, and Sam Spiro, and Frankie Barber, and Nat Parker, and Sally Bretton, and Sophie Thompson, holding big stories and big social worlds together, with their force of personality, and emotional energy.
And what astonishing West End debuts from Crystal Clarke, and Grace Moloney, and Faith Omole and Fehinti Balogun, claiming the stage as if it was their own.
It has been a delight to work with these talents, as it has with everyone involved with the season, from our incredibly enduring and steadfast stage management team to our brilliant marketing team, to all of our incredible creative collaborators, and beyond to many more.
Theatres thrive off unpredictability and excitement, yet it has also been a virtue for the Vaudeville, that lovely unadorned shoebox theatre, the perfect playhouse, to settle into a year of regular production, from a consistent world. To witness the way in which theatre, audience and plays have become more relaxed and at ease with each other, has been nothing but a delight. Seasons and ensembles bring not only audience and actors closer together, but also the words and the fabric of the theatre seem to end up working together. As with the oak of the Globe, so with the plaster and the gilt of the Vaudeville.
And most of all it has been a delight to showcase Oscar, the ceaseless entertainer, the provocateur, the bobby dazzler, and the constant reminder that there are no easy solutions to complex problems, and that no-one is ever wholly in the right.
We have been honoured and delighted to serve these plays up, and hope to be back in the future, to provide more such pleasures and provocations.
Til the next time…