"enjoyable mix of Victorian entertainment"
by Frank Hill for remotegoat on 11/07/16

I’ve reviewed a few productions by ‘Don’t Go Into The Cellar (Victorian Theatre With Bite)’ in recent years, and was a little concerned that they may not be able to maintain their high standards. Not wishing to be disappointed, I was almost tempted to decline their latest offering, but was so intrigued by it’s title, ‘Tea With Oscar Wilde’ ( performed at The Swan Inn, Dobcross, Saddleworth), that I decided to give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed.

This proved to be a greatly entertaining evening of comedy, music, poetry, story-telling - and audience participation. Once again the talented Jonathan Goodwin writes, performs and directs, pulling the whole event together with his suitably over-the-top take on the Victorian writer (I can easily forgive too many references to, ‘My friend Bosie’, and a few rather over-used distracting visual mannerisms). Strutting onto the stage like an enflamed peacock, clothed to emphasise his bohemian excesses, J.G. took control of his audience immediately and never let go. An endless stream of epigrams, word play and terrible gags (‘Houdini was due to appear tonight, but he’s tied up’, ‘absinthe makes the heart grow fonder’ - you get the idea) kept the audience chuckling along, while some clever set pieces had them crying with laughter. There was much interaction with the audience, and witty improvisation when confronted with retired vicars and bible-quoting teetotal ladies of a certain age. Much confidence is need when ad-libbing with an crowd that gives as much as it takes - and Mr. Goodwin made the most of this opportunity for clever banter and interplay. A striking performance with a sharp edge.

Taking tea with Mr. Wilde was William McGonagall (a suitably dour Philip Jennings), the Scottish poet with delusions of competence. Between autobiographical anecdotes we were entertained with readings from his latest collection of poems - including my personal favourite, ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’. Worth the price of a ticket for that alone.

Also making an appearance was music hall entertainer Marie Lloyd (Sali Gresham), creating an amiable sing-along atmosphere while providing an innuendo-filled insight into her various marriages.

There was even time for Mr. Wilde to try out one of his latest tales on us. I don’t personally feel that ‘The Happy Prince’ is the strongest of Oscar Wilde’s short stories (though it does seem to be very popular), but it was grippingly told by Jonathan Goodwin - an engrossing storyteller.

Add to this fruit cocktails and cucumber sandwiches (with the crusts cut off, of course) and a pleasant evening was had by all. Though I think the refreshments may have been particular to this venue (they also do an excellent Sunday lunch) so don’t expect such treats at every performance.

The intimate venue and Victorian parlour setting created a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, and an enjoyable evening with three fine performances that I would definitely recommend.

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