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Wilde Creatures review at Vaudeville Theatre, London – ‘wry, moralistic tales’

Lauren Silver, Tom Jude, Steve McCourt and Matt Jopling in Wilde Creatures. Photo: Tristram Kenton Lauren Silver, Tom Jude, Steve McCourt and Matt Jopling in Wilde Creatures. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Part of a year-long celebration of Oscar Wilde at the Vaudeville, Wilde Creatures takes a look at the writer’s lesser known works – his fairy tales – playing by day on the stage where Eve Best stars in A Woman of No Importance by night.

Tall Stories tell fairly faithful versions of three of Wilde’s wry, moralistic tales, offering up their unsympathetic protagonists as potential subjects for a new statue in the town square. Our narrators are the titular Wilde Creatures, a highly personable and accomplished band of travelling musicians featuring Matt Jopling on guitar, Tom Jude on violin, Steve McCourt on bass and Lauren Silver on clarinet.

Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw’s folky score is full of numbers you can’t help bobbing along to in your seat, and Barney George’s versatile set of piled up wooden pallets boasts plenty of fun surprises. Writer/directors Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell try to pack too much in, with the result that the pace lags when we get to the third tale, but their simple narrative device works well and allows for some cheery audience interaction.

More problematic is the fact that the show is woefully lacking in female characters. There’s no reason why Jacobs and Mitchell couldn’t have switched the genders of some of Wilde’s protagonists to paint a more balanced picture. As it is we’re left with stereotypes: a petulant princess, a dutiful wife and a love interest demanding diamonds. Audiences – particularly younger audiences – of this otherwise enjoyable show deserve better.

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Verdict
Spirited and skilful rendering of Oscar Wilde’s children’s stories
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