"No tea but wit a-plenty"
by Malcolm Eadie for remotegoat on 21/01/17

Despite the title, there is no tea in site at this Victorian chat show in which our host is the writer Oscar Wilde. An ornate silver teapot stands centre stage, but is never used. Jonathan Goodwin plays Oscar with an assault of wit, some of it genuine Wilde and some of it not. Many asides involve references to his friend Bosie, much in the manner that the late Larry Grayson used to refer to his own special friend, Everard.

In this touring show, different guests appear at different performances and you must take pot luck as to who you get. At this particular performance, we were graced with the presence of Marie Lloyd. Her interview gave some genuine insight into her early origins on the stage, but was mostly a contest with her host as to which one of them could produce the most double entendres. Sali Gresham has yet to capture the disingenuous delivery which would be more appropriate for the music hall star noted for her innuendo, but her chummy style helped to put people at their ease, particularly in the audience participation section where two different members of the public were invited up to perform charades. It is also fortunate that Goodwin has enough experience and wit of his own to ad lib his way through any unforeseen eventuality - vital if you are going to encourage this sort of interaction.

One of Goodwin’s great strengths is his simple story-telling. He uses this skill to great ability in the slightly abridged telling of “The Happy Prince”. Wilde’s original words are somewhat altered here to match the rest of the show’s public address style with liberal prefaces of “Ladies and gentlemen...” or “Dear hearts...”

It is a shame that the show does not develop in the second half, and with the insertion of another story, “The Nightingale and the Rose”, and the reappearance of Marie Lloyd for a another sing-along and to help with the audience participation, the feeling is very much one of “more of the same”. The show finishes with some final words from Oscar which are a patchwork of Wildean aphorisms, somewhat laboured to fit together in a single speech. The evening did leave us though, with the feeling of what it might have been like to have spent a little time in the company of Oscar Wilde. The man Jonathan Goodwin portrayed covered himself with an armour of maxims and only allowed his sensitivity to show through his stories. One also had the memory of a light aside he had made about the man who was to become his ultimate nemesis. The following day, he was to have tea with the Marquess of Queensbury.

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