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The Birthday of the Infanta review at Unicorn Theatre

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What a complex character Oscar Wilde was. One minute it’s brittle, sparkling wit and the next it’s the dark pathos of his quasi-fairy stories for children, of which The Birthday of the Infanta is one of the less well known.

In the directorial hands of Emily Gray it sparkles and disturbs, as well as leaving the audience marvelling at the pounding energy and virtuosic talent of Georgina Roberts. She gives us a simpering, pretty but sometimes cruel infanta when she isn’t playing one of the wide range of other parts – which include a rampaging bull at the birthday party entertainment, a sneering uncle, an elderly aristocratic lady and a French trapeze artist.

Roberts sings a counterpoint to Dido’s Lament, plays castanets and operates puppets, some of which double as masks. And when she isn’t darting across the stage to answer herself in a different role, she is narrating the story in a different voice and we’re treated to a continuous collage of voices, timbres, body shapes and faces. No wonder one could see rivers of sweat coursing down her face and neck by the end.

Jean Chan’s imaginative set – including a hessian screen for shadow puppets and a huge skirt frame, inspired by Velasquez, for the little infanta to dance in – makes all this possible and plausible.

It’s a fine piece of physical theatre with as much humour as sadness – especially when four audience members have to present presents to the infanta with a danced flourish.

Production Information

Unicorn Theatre, March 22-27, then touring until May 8

Oscar Wilde, adapted by Carl Miller
Emily Gray
Trestle Unmasked in partnership with Unicorn Theatre and Increpacion Danza
Georgina Roberts
Running time
1hr 10mins

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