REVIEWS AND VENUES

NEIL TITLEY

E-mail: neiljtitley@hotmail.com

Website:   www.wildetheatre.com or google ‘Oscar Wilde Neil Titley’

  ‘INTRODUCING MR OSCAR WILDE’

Neil Titley has been involved for over 35 years in writing, acting, and directing solo shows, in particular his well-known performance as Oscar Wilde.

This show has been performed in hundreds of venues across the world, including the USA, India, Hong Kong, Uruguay, Zimbabwe, Bahrain, Ethiopia and most recently, in 2017, Canada.

He also published a book on Wilde called ‘The Oscar Wilde World of Gossip’, and his play on GB Shaw ‘Shaw’s Corner’ was televised in over 20 countries.

A version of his Wilde play, under franchise to the American actor Johnson Flucker, won the award as ‘Best Period Piece’ at the prestigious United Solo Theatre Festival in New York in 2015.

Although his own theatre show has now ended, Titley still performs a version of the script in a ‘Dramatized Reading’.

This consists of an introduction, the monologue itself, some comic descriptions of life on the theatrical road, and a ‘Question/Answer’ session. (It lasts very roughly for an hour.) The talk can be given in virtually any performance space and needs no special production other than a lapel microphone (if necessary).

If you are interested, please contact through the above channels and we will be delighted to receive your communication and advise you on further details.

 

REVIEWS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Neil J Titley at Wilde’s statue in Merrion Sq, Dublin

NEW YORK: The World’s Largest Solo Theatre Festival

THE UNITED SOLO THEATRE AWARD 2015 – Best Period Piece

(Performed by Johnson Flucker)

 

Evening Standard, London (UK) – by Charles Spencer

‘OUT-OSCARING OSCAR…

Oscar Wilde once remarked that he had put his genius into his life and only his talent into his work. And Neil Titley’s sympathetic one-man show at the Kings Head, Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes, proves that for once the familiarly flip Wilde aphorism contains more than a grain of truth. Great success and public approval were brutally followed by disgrace, downfall and the kind of weary self-knowledge which suffering seems to bring.

Remarkably, Titley manages to touch on all these facets of Wilde. He has based it on the writer’s letters and essays and set in Paris in 1898, two years before the exile’s death. Naturally the bon mots and withering judgments are there in plenty – ‘The world is a stage but the play is badly cast’ among them – but so too is the fatigue and sadness of a figure much more sinned against than sinning.

Titley balances Wilde’s almost dutiful humour with an unsentimental portrayal of his suffering in Reading jail, his bitter perception of man’s inhumanity to man.

He also captures his character’s dignity in despair and the comedy makes the heartbreak of Wilde’s life even more poignant. It is a most moving effect, and ironically one which Wilde rarely achieved in his own work.’

Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe) – by Peter Aswegan

‘An entirely superb performance…From the moment this blowsy, overweight character in grubby evening dress sauntered on to the bare set, we were treated to a sparkling exhibition of Wilde’s wit by a professional who knew exactly what he was about.

It was an object lesson in stagecraft and the man simply WAS Oscar Wilde.’

Punch Magazine (UK). – by Sheridan Morley

‘There are many good jokes here, plus a glimpse of the bitterness beneath them as the laughs shade down to a final dying despair and the awful realisation that at the last man has only three choices: this world, the next world, or Australia.

Mr. Titley deserves a return visit to the London Theatre.’

The Salisbury Journal (UK) – by Katharine Lawley

‘Peter Finch and Stephen Fry rightly won great acclaim for their silver screen portrayals of Oscar Wilde. Finch had the witty rejoin­ders but not the looks, and Fry had the looks but couldn’t entirely capture the essence of the man.

Neil Titley has it all – the foppish hair, the command­ing bearing, the booming voice, the cleverly construct­ed wit and just the right pauses before delivering the punch lines. It’s no wonder he has taken his show, which is set in Paris two years before Wilde’s death, around the world to rave reviews. …… This show is a winner.

 

The Malvern Gazette (UK)

A remarkable characterisation of Oscar Wilde after his social downfall, by the brilliant actor, Neil Titley, launched Malvern solo theatre festival in the candlelit ambience of the Red Lion Annexe. Titley not only captured an astonishing physical resemblance to Wilde, but his selection of anecdotes to conjure up the essence of the man – ironic, sardonic, satiric, aesthetic and pathetic – brought to his performance the elements of great tragedy.

Der Parool, Amsterdam (Netherlands)

‘Titley’s picture gives the audience a many-sided, fascinating and complete image of a rich personality…it is simple yet full of meaning.’

The Times (UK) – by Ned Chaillet

‘Titley’s evocation of Wilde is much more enjoyable than most one man shows…it offers a mordant self knowledge…a good portrait, funny and melancholic.’

Henley Standard (UK)

‘Cynical, sad and unfailingly stylish – these were perhaps the essential qualities which emerged in Neil Titley’s magnificent portrait…The characterisation is beautifully handled – the intense understatement is extraordinarily powerful.’

The Times of India

‘A connoisseur’s delight…….

‘Titley brought out Wilde’s in­comparable wit and oft-neglected hu­manity in the performance. The audience was constantly tittering, gig­gling, laughing and guffawing as Titley’s Wilde threw the acid of his suave, poisonous crit­icism on Victorian society and his detractors.’

 

What’s On in London (UK) – by Michael Darvell

‘Mr. Titley has selected his material well and catches just the right tone in his delivery. Apart from the wit there is pathos too as he harks back to Wilde’s trials and the time he spent in prison. Certainly, Mr. Titley makes Oscar very good company to be in.’

Ilkley Post (UK)

‘As the witty and often hilarious figure of Oscar Wilde, Mr. Titley proved to be a big festival success’

Camden Journal (UK)

‘A razor sharp verbal assault…intricate and memorable’

The Cornishman (UK)

‘Delightfully entertaining.’

The Ontario Arts Scene (Canada): Life With More Cowbell

‘Introducing Mr. Wilde’ is performed in three parts. When Titley first appears onstage, it is as himself – in affable, accessible lecturer mode. Engaging and entertaining, he offers up a brief history of the show and a quick timeline overview of Wilde’s life.

Then, something truly remarkable happens. Titley transports us to 1898, to a Paris café where he shifts from himself as 2017 lecturer to Oscar Wilde, a year after he was released from his two-year prison sentence. The transformation is remarkable, both physically and vocally.

As Wilde, he regales us with thoughts and anecdotes – with razor sharp wit, charm, unapologetic irreverence, and disdain for the mediocre and disingenuous. It’s not all fun and satire, though. There is an impassioned, deeply moving account of his experience in jail; and combined with that keen observation and ability to poke fun at society, it makes for a lovely nuanced, mercurial and poignant performance.

Titley masterfully evokes the energy of Wilde; so much so, you can feel you’re sitting in the room with him.

We then return to 2017 to a short Q&A with Titley. This is a must for all Oscar Wilde fans – or even if you’re just curious about the man. Whether you know a lot or nothing about him, it’s an entertaining and informative ride. A delightful, insightful evening.’

Steve Grant, Time Out (UK)

‘Titley’s play deserves special credit for pointing up all the strands of Wilde’s life… he has also organised his material with credit, moving effortlessly from the light to the shade.’

Riviera Radio (France)

“A wonderful piece of theatre.”

South China Morning Post

‘Brilliantly captures the bygone tones of the real Wilde… Titley lovingly conjures a man exiled by a society that once lionised him.’

Financial Times (UK)

‘Titley has brought something new to the one-man show.’

Bulawayo Chronicle (Zimbabwe)

‘A masterly portrayal.’

Gay News. (UK)

‘In fifty minutes, Titley manages to convey Wilde’s utter contempt for cant and hypocrisy …he catches all the authority of Wilde with a well-paced and sensitive performance.’

The British Society (Uruguay) – from Madeleine Pool, President.

A superb production!

The Suburban Playhouse (Argentina) – from Hugo Halbricht, Director.

It was a privilege to see you bring Wilde to us at the Playhouse!

Wisbech Standard (UK)

‘An excellent portrait…so amusing that even the uninitiated would have been converted.’

The Monitor (Ethiopia)

‘Sheer joie de vivre.’

Richmond Times (UK)

 ‘It relies on the great man’s wit and the actor’s formidable presence …An impressive evocation.’

Irish Times (Rep. of Ireland)

‘Charming and witty.’

Eastern Daily Press (UK)

‘A cynical and witty portrayal…Titley seems to thrive on Wilde’s eloquent style of paradoxical humour.’

Channel 55, Gulf TV (Bahrain)

“A great show.”

Islington Gazette (UK)

‘Wilde said that ideal criticism should consist of unqualified approval. No doubt he would have approved of this.’

Financial Times (India) – by Kavita Nagpal

‘A hugely entertaining piece of the­atre, bringing to the fore the irre­sistible genius of Wilde.’

 

Andover Gazette (UK)

‘Unfailingly compelling…a superbly structured and moving account.’

Lit Net (South Africa) – by Francois Tradoux

(With Jeroen Kranenburg at Klein Libertas Theater, Stellenbosch)

‘To encompass Wilde in 60 minutes is well-nigh impossible. And yet this text works, even when compared with its illustrious predecessors. It works because this is Wilde in his own words, and only him. The text celebrates Wilde’s iconoclasm, his unwillingness to accept cant and rhetoric, and, in a final act of defiance, his loathing of Victorian morals and the claustrophobic religious life that was its source.

This play is not “politically relevant”. It does not say anything about apartheid or poverty or Aids. It just celebrates art and wit and the importance of being honest, even if that honesty means turning every conceivable accepted wisdom upside down.’

Festival Times, Edinburgh (UK)

‘Fine and genuinely moving jail sequence.’

The Pilot, North Carolina (USA)

‘Neil Titley, in period garb, was every bit the witty, paradoxical Wilde, lampooning the social mores of his time. The audience was held in rapt attention’

Penthouse Magazine (UK)

‘It’s a marvellous show.’

The Mountain Messenger, Calif. (USA)

‘Mr. Titley’s portrayal of the tragic and comic life endeavors of Oscar Wilde was captivating and very well done. The entire evening was an experience that event goers are not likely to forget. May there be more opportunities of this caliber offered in the future!’

The Buteman (UK)

‘The play was of a quality and sophistication rarely seen on the island and was enthusiastically received by an audience starved of such thoughtful and delicate entertain­ment. The per­formance was greeted with wild applause from the assembled audience, calling the star back for three curtain calls.’

The Belize Times (Belize) – by Andrew Steinhauer

‘Wilde’s sarcastic witticisms are full of high-octane verbal gymnastics and poignantly cynical humor. In Monday’s performance Titley delivered Wilde’s lines with rapid-fire precision and loving gusto.’

The Oxford and Cambridge Club, London (UK) – from Vince O’Brien

An outstanding talk. I have heard nothing but praise for what was a fairly astonishing performance.

Ontario Arts Review (Canada) – by Michael Piscitelli

‘I found myself finding out more about Wilde in an hour and a half than any lecturer in an entire semester of school could teach. A highly intelligent piece of writing…..that I would gladly recommend.’

The Reading Salon, Toronto (Canada)

‘A smart and often cheeky introduction to the life and death of Oscar Wilde….. What Titley lacks in flamboyant dress he makes up for with deliciously dreamy story-telling and a sincerity of character that was as compelling as he was funny.’

*****************

 

 

SOME PREVIOUS VENUES

                                                              NORTH AMERICA

                                                  CANADA

Red Sandcastle Theatre, Toronto

The Canadian-Pacific train, Manitoba

                                                   U.S.A.

             ALABAMA

The Country Club, Birmingham.

The Country Club, Montgomery.

             CALIFORNIA

The Mountain Shadows Restaurant, Sierra City.

             GEORGIA

St Phillip’s Cathedral, Atlanta.

             MASSACHUSETTS

Krankovitz Literary Salon, Concord.

             NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina Country Club, Southern Pines.

English Speaking Union, Charlotte.

The Country Club, Salisbury.

             SOUTH CAROLINA

Gibbes Museum, Charleston.

Ebenezer Church, Columbia.

              TENNESSEE

Loft Restaurant, Chattanooga.

             VIRGINIA

Wilton House, Richmond.

                                                 LATIN AMERICA

                ARGENTINA

The Suburban Theatre, Buenos Aires

                BELIZE

Mexican Cultural Institute, Belize City

Image Factory, Belize City

Museum of Belize, Belize City

                URUGUAY

Anglo-Uruguayan Cultural Centre, Montevideo

Bodega Los Nadies Vineyard Estancia, Canalones

The Nogaro Casino Theatre, Punta del Estes

 

                                                         AFRICA 

                 ETHIOPIA

Ibex Hotel, Addis Ababa  

                ZIMBABWE

Bulawayo Theatre, Bulawayo. 

New Club, Harare. 

Alliance Francaise Theatre, Harare. 

 

                                                      MIDDLE EAST 

                 BAHRAIN

Diplomat Hotel, Manama. 

                 JORDAN

Roman Ampitheatre, Jerash

 

                                                            ASIA 

                 HONG KONG 

Fringe Club, Central. Festival. 

South Island School, Repulse Bay. 

                 INDIA

Sharma residence, Gurgaon

Habitat Centre, Delhi

The Habitat Centre, Delhi

The Vidhya Niketan School, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

The Epicenter Theatre, Gurgaon, Hariyana

Indore University, Madhya Pradesh

 

                                                 EUROPE 

                FRANCE

The Vault Theatre, Antibes, Cotes D’Azur.

 

American School, Nice, Cotes D’Azur. 

Camp Redon, Belves, Dordogne Valley. 

The C.I.V, Sophia Antipolis, Cotes D’Azur. 

Siran, Carcassonne.

               GERMANY

Schiller Oper, Hamburg.

 

Gallerie 88, Hamburg. 

                ICELAND 

The Dubliner Tavern, Reykjavik. 

                 ITALY

EU Commission, Ispra, Lake Maggiore

             

  THE NETHERLANDS 

Gemeentemuseum, The Hague. 

Statenburcht, Rotterdam. 

Belfort Hotel, Amsterdam. 

Huize Kortonjo, Eindhoven. 

Broedergemeente, Ziest, Utrecht. 

Dorpshuis, Enschede. 

De Vrijheidskerk, Alkmaar.

                  GIBRALTAR

The Celata Hotel

 

                                             IRELAND

  1. DONEGAL

McGinley’s Bar, Letterkenny. 

Zack’s Bar, Donegal Town. 

  1. MAYO

Matt Molloy’s Bar, Westport. 

Gaughan’s Bar, Ballina. 

  1. GALWAY

Taylor’s Bar, Galway City. 

        ARAN ISLANDS 

Bay Café, Kilronan, Inishmore. 

  1. KERRY

John B. Keane’s Bar, Listowel. 

McCarthy’s Bar, Dingle. 

Kingdom Bar, Killorglin. 

  1. CORK

Sean Og Bar, Skibbereen. 

Pine Lodge Bar, Crosshaven. 

  1. WATERFORD

Bean A Leanna Bar, Dungarvan. 

T and H Doolan’s Bar, Waterford City. 

  1. WEXFORD

Thomas Moore Bar, Wexford. 

The Tavern Bar, Enniscorthy. 

Loch Garman Arms Bar, Gorey. 

  1. WICKLOW

Old Court Inn, Wicklow Town. 

Lynham’s Bar, Glendalough. 

  1. KILDARE

McGovern’s Bar, Moyvally. 

  1. DUBLIN

The Duke Bar, Dublin City 

The Focus Theatre, Dublin City.

 

                                                       SCOTLAND 

Edinburgh Festival (3 seasons).

 

The Arts Centre, Aberdeen. 

The Corn Exchange, Biggar, Strathclyde. 

The Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine, Strathclyde. 

Crawford Arts Centre, University of St Andrews, Fife. 

Port Royal Hotel, Isle of Bute. 

The Kames Hotel, Tighnabruaich, Argyl. 

 

                                                        WALES 

Ty Isaf Theatre, Llandeilo, Dyfed.

The Leisure Centre, Nantyglo, Gwent. 

Normal College, Bangor, Gwynedd. 

Theatr Ardudwy, Harlech, Gwynedd. 

The Festival, Presteigne, Powys. 

The Victorian Festival, Albert Hall, Llandrindod Wells, Powys.

 

                                                          ENGLAND 

                        LONDON 

The Kings Head Theatre Club, Islington.

 

The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond. 

Warehouse Theatre, Croydon. 

Vibe Bar, Brick Lane, East End. 

Oscar Wilde Society, Golden Lion Tavern, St James. 

Keats House, Hampstead.

Irish Club, Eaton Square, Chelsea.

Irish Centre, Camden Town.

Minogues Bar, Islington. 

Lantern Theatre, Hackney.

Café Theatre, Leicester Square, West End.

Theatrespace, The Strand, West End.

Chelsea Arts Club.

Novelli’s Restaurant, Clerkenwell. 

English Speaking Union, Dartmouth House, Mayfair. 

The Shaw Society, Conway Hall. 

Queen Mary College, London University, Mile End

Pentameters Theatre, Hampstead.

 

Fleet Centre, Hampstead. 

Old Bull Gallery, Barnet. 

Falcon Inn Theatre, Camden Town. 

Filthy McNasty’s Whiskey Bar, Islington. 

Dept. of Employment Club, Westminster. 

Civil Service Club, Westminster.

Just St James restaurant, Mayfair

Cadogan Hotel, Chelsea

St Bride’s Institute, City of London

The Stag Pub, Hampstead

Charterhouse, Smithfield

National Liberal Club, Whitehall

Wandsworth Prison Museum

Thorney Island Soc, University Women’s Club, Mayfair

Third Age University, Hampstead

Third Age University, St Bride’s Institute, City of London

Oxford and Cambridge Club, Pall Mall

Keats Library, Hampstead

The Mitre Tavern, Lancaster Gate

King William IV Tavern, Hampstead

 

 

                 BEDFORDSHIRE 

Old Town Hall Centre, Hemel Hempstead. 

                BERKSHIRE 

Swan Inn, Windsor Festival 

Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park, Bracknell. 

                BUCKINGHAMSHIRE 

Village Hall, Marlow. 

                CAMBRIDGESHIRE 

Downing College, Cambridge.

Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Angles Theatre, Wisbech.

Brookside Arts Centre, Huntingdon. 

Medical Society, District Hospital, Peterborough

                CORNWALL

Arts Centre, Penzance.

Coastguards Hotel, Mousehole.

Admiral Benbow Restaurant, Penzance 

Arts Centre, Falmouth

                CUMBRIA 

Library Theatre, Wigton. 

                DERBYSHIRE 

Palace Hotel, Buxton, Derbyshire.

              DEVON 

Sidmouth Folk Festival.

Dartington Hall, Totnes.

Verbeer Manor, Cullompton. 

Arts Centre, Bideford. 

              DORSET 

Black Bear Hotel, Wareham. 

             DURHAM

Arts Centre, Darlington. 

The Wellington, Wolverston

Village Hall, Morden

Ceddesfeld Hall, Sedgefield

               ESSEX

Towngate Theatre, Basildon.

 

Hermitage Theatre, Brentwood. 

The Red Lion, Manningtree

              GLOUCESTERSHIRE 

Shaftesbury Theatre, Cheltenham. 

             HAMPSHIRE 

Cricklade Theatre, Andover. 

             HEREFORDSHIRE

Three Choirs Festival, Booth Hall, Hereford

Cathedral School, Hereford

The Library, Kington

             HERTFORDSHIRE

Library Theatre, Leighton Buzzard.

Shaw’s Corner, Ayot St. Lawrence.

The Playhouse, Harlow.

              ISLE OF MAN

Bride Hall, Point of Ayre.

             KENT

Stone Green Hall, Ashford.

Metropole Arts Centre, Folkestone.

Avenue Theatre, Sittingbourne.

              LANCASHIRE

The Playhouse, Preston.

White Bull Hotel, Ribchester 

              LINCOLNSHIRE

Assembly Rooms, Barton-on-Humber

Whitgift Film Theatre, Grimsby

               GREATER MANCHESTER

University of Manchester.

              MERSEYSIDE

Academy of Arts, Liverpool.

               OXFORDSHIRE

Worcester College, Oxford.

Corpus Christi College, Oxford.

The Kenton Theatre, Henley-on Thames.

Chez Skinner Club, Henley-on-Thames.

Jude the Obscure Tavern, Oxford.

The Cricket Club, Cumnor

                SUFFOLK

Quay Theatre, Sudbury.

               SURREY

Adrian Mann Theatre, Ewell

University of Surrey, Guildford.

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford.

                SUSSEX

Penthouse Magazine, Lewes.

University of Sussex, Brighton.

Jenny Lind Hotel, Hastings.

Ifield Barn Theatre, Crawley.

Brighton University Gallery.

Firle Place, Lewes

               TYNESIDE

Springfield School, Jarrow.

Bolden School, Bolden Colliery.

Harton School, South Shields.

St. Joseph’s School, Hebburn.

              WARWICKSHIRE

Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon.

Shakespeare Hotel, Stratford-on-Avon. (5 seasons).

Town Hall, Stratford-on-Avon.

Adult Education Centre, Shipston-on-Stour.

Lord Leycester Great Hall, Warwick

               WILTSHIRE

Lecture Hall, Mere.

              WORCESTERSHIRE

Fringe Club, Malvern Festival.

Red Lion Inn, Malvern. (2 seasons).

Talbot Hotel, Knightwick.

                YORKSHIRE

City Varieties Theatre, Leeds.

Art Gallery, Leeds.

Ilkley Playhouse

 

 

In common with general theatrical practice, the review quotes at the start of this section use only the phrases desired by advertising imperatives. To give a fairer range of critical comment, some of the full reviews are included below.

 

PRESS REVIEWS OF

‘WORK IS THE CURSE OF THE DRINKING CLASSES’.

 

LONDON EVENING STANDARD. Charles Spencer.

THE TIMES, LONDON. Ned Chaillet

PUNCH MAGAZINE, LONDON. Sheridan Morley.

TIME OUT. Steve Grant.

THE STAGE. Anne Morley-Priestman.

GAY NEWS, LONDON. Emmanuel Cooper.

WHAT’S ON in LONDON. Michael Darvell.

 

HENLEY STANDARD. S.M.S. ‘Wit and Wisdom of Wilde’.

RICHMOND TIMES. N.S. ‘Oscar Triumphs’.

ANDOVER RECORD. R.R. ‘Chopin and Wilde’.

WISBECH STANDARD. C.O. ‘Portrait of a Playwright’.

EASTERN DAILY PRESS. R.R. ‘Wilde Night at Wisbech’.

THE CORNISHMAN. ‘Wilde Works at Mousehole’.

HACKNEY GAZETTE. ‘Irish Ayes’.

STRATFORD-ON-AVON HERALD. T.B. ‘Wilde Twilight’.

ILKLEY STANDARD.

MALVERN GAZETTE.

THE BUTEMAN

THE SALISBURY JOURNAL. Katharine Lawley

ISLINGTON GAZETTE. Julie Isherwood. ‘Wit to Treasure’.

CAMDEN JOURNAL. A.P.            ‘It’s Wilde’.

 NORTHERN ECHO. ‘Neil Thumbs His Way on Stage’.

  

BULAWAYO CHRONICLE, ZIMBABWE. ‘Masterly Portrayal of Wilde’.

FINANCIAL GAZETTE, ZIMBABWE. Peter Aswegan.

 

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. Dino Mahoney.

 

GENOOTSCHAP NEDERLAND-ENGELAND, UTRECHT.

 

IRISH MIRROR COMMENT – Editorial.

 

THE PILOT, SOUTHERN PINES, NORTH CAROLINA, USA.

THE MOUNTAIN MESSENGER, CALIFORNIA. USA

 

THE BELIZE TIMES Andrew Steinhauer

 

LIT NET, S. AFRICA ‘Wittier Than Thou’. Francois Tradoux. With Jeroen Kranenburg

 

TIMES OF INDIA ‘A Wilde Theatrical Start’.

THE HINDU, INDIA Nandini Nair. ‘Above the Mediocrities’.

FINANCIAL TIMES, INDIA. Kavita Nagpal

FINANCIAL EXPRESS, INDIA ‘A Retake on Two Wordsmiths.’

THE PIONEER

TRENDYLICIOUS – MUMBAI, INDIA

 

CANADA LIFE WITH MORE COWBELL – The Ontario Arts Scene

CANADA THE READING SALON, Toronto

 

PRESS CUTTINGS OF ‘WORK IS THE CURSE OF THE DRINKING CLASSES’.

 

NATIONAL PRESS, UK.

 

LONDON EVENING STANDARD, UK. By Charles Spencer.

‘OUT-OSCARING OSCAR…’

Oscar Wilde once remarked that he had put his genius into his life and only his talent into his work.

And Neil Titley’s sympathetic one-man show at the Kings Head, Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes, proves that for once the familiarly flip Wilde aphorism contains more than a grain of truth.

For while most of Wilde’s plays – with the exception of that jewel-like masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest – now seem dated and melodramatic, his life retains the enduring satisfaction of a classic tragedy.

Great success and public approval were brutally followed by disgrace, downfall and the kind of weary self-knowledge which only suffering seems to bring.

Remarkably, Titley manages to touch on all these facets of Wilde in a show which lasts less than an hour. He has based it on the writer’s letters and essays and set in Paris in 1898, two years before the exile’s death.

Naturally the bon mots and withering judgements are there in plenty – ‘The world is a stage but the play is badly cast’ among them – but so too is the fatigue and sadness of a figure much more sinned against than sinning.

Titley gently balances Wilde’s almost dutiful humour with an unsentimental portrayal of his suffering in Reading jail, his bitter perception of man’s inhumanity to man. He also captures his character’s dignity in despair and the comedy finally serves only to make the heartbreak of Wilde’s life seem still more poignant.

It is a most moving effect, and ironically one which Wilde rarely achieved in his own work.’

 

THE TIMES, LONDON, UK.  By Ned Chaillet

Actors spend most of their time being other people and one must forgive them for that. Some of the people they choose to be are quite charming or interesting, which is just as well. But when it comes to one-man shows, actors tend to become people we have all heard of, and so the lunchtime programmes at the Kings Head Theatre rouse Evelyn Waugh from the dead, without access to his own written words, or they give us a famous name with a pungent selection of his best written and spoken words, like this week’s Oscar Wilde.

Neil Titley’s evocation of Wilde is much more enjoyable than most such excursions, although someone has designed a berserk lighting plot which often hides the character in shadows or a blinding glare. From what I could see, there were some touches of Mr Titley’s costume that needed to be hidden.

He offers the Wilde of Paris, impoverished and disgraced by two years in an English jail, and yet he still strains to be fastidious in his dress and in his wit. Mr Titley’s costume fails to help the characterisation for, although he has painted his face a ghostly white (well, Wilde is dead) and wears white gloves and a white tie, his shoes and socks are a disgrace to impersonation. His vocal characterisation is a more certain thing, honed to deliver the sharp jests and observations of Wilde’s wit.

Mr Titley has selected and connected his quotations with a good sense of the story that Wilde might tell, passing from fashionable fame to scorned ignominy with his eyes wide open. The show makes no special plea for understanding, which should no longer be necessary anyway, but it does offer a mordant self-knowledge. It is a good portrait, funny and melancholic, of the face behind Dorian Gray.

 

PUNCH MAGAZINE, UK. By SHERIDAN MORLEY.

At the Kings Head for a brief lunchtime season, Neil Titley had an interesting solo show about Oscar Wilde in his final Parisian months of exile.

Anyone doing a solo Wilde has of course still to compete with the memory of Michael MacLiammoir and those cascading Irish tones; what Titley wisely offers is less an impersonation than a summary of Wilde’s last letters; it is August 1899, Oscar’s friends are all in Trouville and his enemies all in Deauville, a stay in Switzerland has been abandoned on account of the country being entirely populated by theologians or waiters, and to the observation that all drama critics can be bought he adds ‘and judging by their appearance they can’t be expensive’.

There are some good jokes here, plus a glimpse of the bitterness beneath them as the laughs shade down to a final dying despair and the awful realisation that man at the last has only three choices: this world, the next world or Australia.

Mr Titley deserves a return visit to the London theatre.’

 

TIME OUT. LONDON, UK. By STEVE GRANT.

With material like Oscar Wilde it would be hard to miss, but Neil Titley’s compilation, Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes, (Kings Head lunchtime), deserves special credit for pointing up all the strands in Wilde’s life and make-up: his scathing wit (lines which make Clive James look like an A-Z), his love of life and youth, his travels, trial, imprisonment, final impoverished exile in Paris and humiliation, climaxing in legal banishment from much-loved children.

Titley is no Michael MacLiammoir but is always in search of an audience, speaks his lines well and has organised his material with credit, not least by effortlessly moving from the light to the dark with some pointed comments on the ‘meaning of it all’ which show Wilde at his most expansively sensitive.

As for the funnies: ‘the Swiss look as if they’ve been carved out of turnips’, ‘a thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it’ (of religion), and ‘all the world’s a stage but the play is badly cast’. Etc. One cavil: whoever is doing the lighting should stop at once.

 

THE STAGE, UK. Anne Morley-Priestman. ‘SPARKLING EPIGRAMS’.

Neil Titley’s one-man show about Oscar Wilde has had the good fortune during its popular run to be played against the stylish set for ‘Up In The Eighties’; it therefore seems a pity that something more evocative of a Parisian boulevard café could not be found than the rickety table and peeling-painted chairs provided for the lunchtime play.

The epigrams and aphorisms work their usual magic sparkle, though the year in which we overhear Wilde reminiscing is 1898, after his release from prison and socially (if not legally) imposed exile. Titley’s make-up is chalk white, suggesting both the pallor of prison and that of an underground emotional existence with death a mere couple of years away.

He wears the evening dress of the period, though I was left wondering if the grubby white gloves were either meant to be deeply symbolic or represented simply a lapse on the part of stage management.

It works very well, a fluff or two apart. The jibes at the critical fraternity come over strongly. This is a show which would make an excellent late-night festival offering.

 

GAY NEWS, LONDON, UK. By Emmanuel Cooper.

‘Oscar Wilde remains one of the most fascinating and contradictory characters of the nineteenth century and we see many of his sides in Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes, written and performed by Neil Titley, using Wilde’s letters and essays (Kings Head Theatre Club).

Set in a Parisian café in 1898 two years before his death, Oscar, complete with worn evening suit, surveys his life. In fifty minutes Titley manages to convey Wilde’s utter contempt for cant and hypocrisy attacking in turn actors ‘but not acting’, artists, critics, teachers, religion – ‘a thing isn’t true just because a man died for it’ and Americans who ‘look at everything and see nothing’.

A change of mood comes when Wilde reflects on the awfulness of his time in prison but this he says is nothing compared with being denied access to his two children; we see the human side of Wilde and are touched in a different way.

Titley’s show catches all the authority of Wilde with a well-paced and sensitive performance with its welcome suggestion that there is more to this highly fashionable ‘wit’ than his reputation as a cynical dilettante would have us believe.

 

WHAT’S ON IN LONDON. By Michael Darvell. ‘WILDE THINGS’.

Suddenly it’s Oscar Wilde. There are two shows about him currently on the Fringe. One will certainly interest you, the other is really only for the most avid collector of Oscariana.

Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes (Café Theatre, Bear and Staff, Charing Cross Road) is a monologue performed by Neil Titley playing Wilde in exile in Paris.

The idea is simple – all the material in this compilation is by Wilde, or at least appears to be. It is culled from his plays, his books, his criticism and his letters and most of the well-known gems are there, besides the less familiar utterances. This is Oscar in essence, Wilde rolled into one, as it were, side by side with himself.

On drama critics: ‘I’m told they can be bought and by the look of most of them they are not expensive’. On newspapers: ‘We used to have the rack, now we have the Press’. On smoking: ‘A cigarette is the perfect type of a perfect pleasure. It is exquisite and it leaves one unsatisfied. What more can one want?’ On families: ‘Children begin by loving their parents: after a time, they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them’. On travel: ‘When good Americans die they go to Paris. And when bad Americans die? They go to America.’

Mr Titley has selected his material well and catches just the right tone in his delivery. Apart from the wit there is pathos too as he harks back to Wilde’s trials and the time he spent in prison. Certainly, Mr Titley makes Oscar very good company to be in.

 

LOCAL PRESS, UK

 

HENLEY STANDARD, UK.   S.M.S. ‘WIT AND WISDOM OF WILDE.

Cynical, sad and unfailingly stylish. Those were perhaps the essential qualities which emerged in Neil Titley’s magnificent portrait of Oscar Wilde presented at the Kenton Theatre last Saturday afternoon.

Entitled ‘Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes’, this remarkable one-man show which received considerable critical acclaim at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, portrays Wilde sitting in a Parisian café some two years before his death.

Titley, who wrote the play himself, has achieved a delicate balance between reminiscence and astringent comment. And, despite its narrow focus, the narrative is never monotonous.

His Wilde – pale, ill, languishing in exile, ostracised by the society that once lionised him – is incorrigibly outrageous and entirely without self-pity.

The characterisation is beautifully handled. Familiar Wildean aphorisms have all the appearance of spontaneity. Indeed, Titley affects a sort of camp surprise when delivering them, as if he himself is baffled by such pungency and precision of phrase.

He offers a horribly moving account of the Marquis of Queensberry affair and Wilde’s subsequent two-year humiliation in Reading Gaol. Any temptation to wallow and gush is resisted, and Wilde’s intense understatement is extraordinarily powerful.

Wilde admitted that his experiences in prison made him a ‘deeper man’ and that is how Mr Titley shows him to us. More complex than the effervescent man-about-town who wrote the now classic comedies – he is still witty but now also wise.

 

 

RICHMOND TIMES, UK. N.S.

‘OSCAR TRIUMPHS OVER FIDGETY WHISTLER.’

……By contrast, Neil Titley’s impersonation of Oscar Wilde was so dolefully self-assured as to require practically no movement at all. It relied upon the great man’s wit and the actor’s formidable presence.

We found Oscar, sad and cynical, in the bar of the aptly named Terminus Hotel not long before his last exit, daintily sipping a  glass of absinth and acidly reflecting on anything and everything from the theatre to prison life.

Neil Titley looked the part in full evening dress, with a face as white as his gloves, and his precise articulation ensured that nary a quip was unheard.

Candlelight was used to good effect towards the end, though I felt more imaginative lighting earlier on could have raised this impressive evocation to even greater heights.

 

ANDOVER RECORD, UK. RR ‘CHOPIN AND WILDE ON THE SAME BILL’.

… The second half of the programme saw another young English artist in his debut at Cricklade in the form of actor/writer Neil Titley who performed his one man show: ‘Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes’ based on the works of Oscar Wilde.

Unfailingly compelling and by turns funny and sad, this portrait of Wilde by Mr Titley earned warm applause from an appreciative audience.

His excellent voice delivered the familiar aphorisms with a surprising freshness and relish but to suggest that the play was simply a collection of witticisms would be grossly unfair. This was a superbly structured moving account of the fall of a great man. Mr Titley’s hours of research were much in evidence, in his economical script which managed to embrace so much of Wilde’s life – without ever being boring.

A great evening’s entertainment.

 

 

WISBECH STANDARD, UK.  C.O. ‘PORTRAIT OF A PLAYWRIGHT’.

People in the country rise so early because there is so much to do, and go to bed so early because there is so little to talk about.

So said Oscar Wilde … or was it Neil Titley? On Saturday Mr Titley gave an excellent portrait of the great Irish playwright to a packed Angles Theatre.

The one-man show, written and performed by Mr Titley, was highly acclaimed at last year’s Edinburgh Festival. The author blended reminiscence and comment to such perfection that it was difficult to tell one from the other.

The 45 minute monologue ‘Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes’, is set in Paris during Wilde’s self-imposed exile from this country. The author plays Wilde but as a pale and sick Wilde, in complete contrast to the effervescent social man at the height of his fame.

His recollections began when Wilde was the acclaimed author and, alternating between humour and pungent insight, recounted his tragic downfall and two years’ imprisonment for homosexuality.

With typical Wilde cutting humour the author gives his views on friends, actors, religion, American tourists and not least journalism. Hard work, for instance, is simply the action of people with nothing better to do.

An audience unfamiliar with the Irishman or his humour would have found it difficult to follow, but the portrait was so amusing that even the uninitiated would have been converted.

After the monologue there was an opportunity to ask the author questions. This footnote to the evening allowed the audience to participate more fully in the entertainment. Just a pity there were not more questions!

I hope this type of entertainment will be repeated at the Angles, but for longer than just one night.

 

EASTERN DAILY PRESS, UK. R.R. ‘WILDE NIGHT AT WISBECH’.

Theatregoers in Wisbech were treated to a delightful evening of Oscar Wilde on Saturday when Nial Titley’s one-man show visited the Angles Theatre.

His performance of ‘Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes’ won considerable acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival. It brings to life the character and the opinions of the famous Victorian wit. A cynical and witty portrayal, Nial Titley’s performance brings to the 1980s the man who saw himself as a great hero in his own tragedy.

Set in a Parisian café, the show sees Wilde expressing his theories on life, his friends and subjects ranging from religion to American tourists. Nial Titley avoids making a monotonous tribute – a trap he could have easily fallen into – and instead entertains with fast-moving witticisms.

First written for Irish Radio, the show adapts easily to the stage, and Nial Titley seems to thrive on Wilde’s eloquent style of paradoxical humour – of a quality which is timeless.

Despite Wilde’s brash outspokenness and scathing wit, Nial Titley’s performance leaves the audience feeling sorry for the man who believed his life to be just one long romantic tragedy.

 

THE CORNISHMAN, UK. ‘WILDE WORKS AT MOUSEHOLE’.

Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes. How apt a title for a delightfully entertaining hour-long show, based on the works of Oscar Wilde and premiered in Cornwall – in a pub!

The revue was the work of London actor and poet Neil Titley who was on stage alone for the hour with a work he had written over a five and a half month period.

Using no other props than his formal attire, the odd glass of wine and cigar he took his audience through humour and pathos with a string of Wildean anecdotes which absorbed and amused the crowded restaurant at Mousehole’s Old Coastguards Hotel. Over the weekend he also put the show on at the Penzance Arts Centre and The Admiral Benbow.

 

HACKNEY GAZETTE, UK. ‘IRISH AYES’.

Neil Titley wrote and directed his two plays about Irish writers which were filled with incident and suspense, with the engrossing performances allowing sharp characterisation by the actors.

Agreeable sentiment was heard as he acted Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes, looking as the dying Oscar Wilde must have appeared in 1900 Paris, being outrageous, wryly humorous, or disturbingly tragic as the taut script demanded.

Expressed as a soliloquy by recalling his past life, Oscar Wilde’s tragic behaviour had an air of tenseness, lost loves, yet no bitterness.

The other perfectly acted performance, by Malcolm Wroe, was as George Bernard Shaw, with the play’s opening presenting a radio broadcast.

With the title ‘Shaws Corner’ the compelling force of experiences during his long life was filled with spontaneous, irresistible chatter, and with acting that was exciting, authentic and warm-hearted.

The staging of these plays had invention with technical ingenuity and acting worthy of these two great Irish writers whom they amazingly resembled.

 

STRATFORD-ON-AVON HERALD, UK. T.B. ‘WILDE TWILIGHT’.

Visitors to the White Swan Hotel, Stratford, found themselves in the company of the great English wit Oscar Wilde early this week.

The famed playwright and observer of life was portrayed by London-based actor Neil Titley in a one-man show, Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes.

The hour-long monologue presented Wilde living in exile in France towards the end of his life, his former social standing, money and family all lost.

However, Mr Titley’s script presented Wilde as a person without bitterness at his treatment by society, reflecting philosophically on his life and the world he lived in.

Dressed in white tie and tails, sometimes sitting, occasionally standing, Mr Titley presented a fast flowing stream of thought which started on a light satirical tack but grew darker and increasingly introspective.

Topics held up for gentle ridicule included the press in general, critics in particular, country life and America.

A few famous lines were thrown in but much of the material, drawn from various sources, was fresh to many ears if the reactions on Monday night were anything to go by.

Lit by just two household lamps the effect was surprisingly effective and it is easy to see why the show has survived being toured round pubs, festivals and fringe venues for over ten years.

 

ILKLEY STANDARD, UK.

In a packed Ilkley Playhouse, actor Neil Titley performed his one man show, Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes, becoming the witty and often hilarious figure of Oscar Wilde in the centenary year of The Importance of Being Earnest.

In a show that has gained rave reviews from its performance around the country and in other parts of the world, Mr Titley proved to be a big success.

In the second part of his performance, Mr Titley appeared as himself to give an informal talk on Irish writers with anecdotes about life in Ireland.

 

THE MALVERN GAZETTE, UK. ‘SOLO SHOW’.

A remarkable characterisation of Oscar Wilde after his social downfall by the brilliant actor Neil Titley launched Malvern solo theatre festival in the candlelit ambience of the Red Lion Annexe. Titley not only captured an astonishing physical resemblance to Wilde, but his selection of anecdotes to conjure up the essence of the man – ironic, sardonic, satiric, aesthetic and pathetic – brought to his performance the elements of great tragedy.

 

THE BUTEMAN, UK. ‘Oscar evoked at Port Royal Wilde night’.

An alternative and unusual piece of the­atre arrived on Bute last week, when the Port Royal Hotel hosted a one man per­formance based on the life and works of that famous Dublin wit, Oscar Wilde.

Written by and starring Neil Titley, ‘Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes’ was of a quality and sophistication rarely seen on the island and was enthusiastically received by an audience of 70 starved of such thoughtful and delicate entertain­ment.

“I wanted something different,” said Dag Crawford, Port Royal owner and the man responsible for bringing the play here. “There is a lack of this kind of entertainment and it is heart-warming to see such a full turn out after everybody’s efforts in putting it together.”

The play which has received rave reviews from all over the world, featured the actor at a table in Paris shortly after Wilde’s release from prison for homosexual practices. He regaled the audience with the irrever­ent wit and gentle insight that Wilde was famed for, delivered with a warmth, richness and feeling that took the spellbound audi­ence to 19th century Paris and into the heart of a remarkable man.

“It was a wonderful night,” Mr Titley told The Buteman, “To see so many people turn out in such a small and intimate venue is lovely. I look forward to my return.”

Despite the ingenious wit and elegant jokes delivered with exquisite timing, it was the descrip­tion of the horror of Wilde’s time in prison that had the most impact. In the highlight of the performance, Mr Titley slipped away from the fri­volity of his subject’s wit­ticisms and turned his insight to the degradation and human evil that was suffered in two years at Wandsworth and Reading gaols.

The 50 minute per­formance was greeted with wild applause from the assembled audience, calling the star back for three curtain calls.

He then followed with an informal chat, with ques­tions probing his knowl­edge of Wilde’s life and discussing the great man in detail. Audience member Julie Milroy said “It was an informative and entertaining tribute to Oscar Wilde.”

Murray Doyle, himself a Dubliner, added: “A brilliant characterisation of who I imagine Oscar Wilde to be. His frivolous combination of insight, profundity and wit was a revelation.”

 

THE SALISBURY JOURNAL, UK by Katharine Lawley. Mere Literary Festival

 ‘TITLEY IS A WINNER WITH WILDE SHOW’

Peter Finch and Stephen Fry rightly won great acclaim for their silver screen portrayals of Oscar Wilde. Finch had the witty rejoin­ders but not the looks, and Fry had the looks but couldn’t entirely capture the essence of the man.

Neil Titley has it all – the foppish hair, the command­ing bearing, the booming voice, the cleverly construct­ed wit and just the right pauses before delivering the punch lines. It’s no wonder he has taken his show, which is set in Paris two years before Wilde’s death, around the world to rave reviews.

Coming to Mere on the eve of the 150th anniversary of Wilde’s birth, Titley charmed a full house with the performance – a series of anec­dotes, mostly funny but some sad.

Wilde fans would have recognised much of the material: the reference to the wealthy widow: “I hear her hair has turned quite gold with grief’, the comment on the length of Dickens’ descriptions: “one would need a heart of stone not to laugh at the death of Little Nell”, the description of the hunting set: “the unspeak­able chasing the uneatable”, and country people: “they go to bed early because they have nothing to talk about”.

Pathos was injected in his description of Reading Gaol, which “lost me my name, position, wealth and happi­ness”. He added: “It was a night­mare, more horrible than I had ever imagined; gaols are the slow, timeless destroyers of men.”

The question-and-answer session in the second half didn’t work as well as the performance but aside from that, this show is a winner.

 

CAMDEN JOURNAL, UK. A.P ‘IT’S WILDE’.

Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes (Falcon Pub, Royal College Street, Camden Town) is a one-man, one-act play which makes use of a small table, a single candle and an old photograph.

Neil Titley plays the acid-tongued Oscar Wilde in an hour-long scourge of the Press, the Church and the English, among many others.

With a razor-sharp verbal assault, the characters of upright citizens are brutally and with some relish assassinated. The particular kind of delicacy redeems his wit from what it almost is, smart but trivial. Instead it is better, intricate and memorable.

As a flamboyant, dandified Mr Wilde, Mr Wilde, Neil Titley is very good – his grip on the character seems to weaken only at the point in the play when Wilde delivers his philosophy of individualism. When the funny man goes serious it seems to grate like a note out of tune. In this case, humour and poignancy don’t mix. The audience just wait for him to start making them laugh again. The play ends on Sunday. 

 

 

ISLINGTON GAZETTE, UK. By Julie Isherwood. ‘WIT TO TREASURE’.

The wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde is such that it could fill a library let alone a 50-minute lunchtime show.

But in Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes at the Kings Head Theatre Club, Upper Street, Islington, today and tomorrow, Neil Titley presents a selection of the opinions of Oscar Wilde in such a precise and stylish way that every word is to be treasured.

This one-man show, based on the essays and letters of Wilde, is set in a Parisian café in 1898, two years before his death.

Titley, as Wilde, muses back over his life, sharing with us his views on such topics as nature (‘pleasant but rather superfluous’); religion (‘a thing is not necessarily true because someone died for it’); newspapers (‘in the old days men had the rack, now they have the press’), and suicide (‘the greatest compliment one can pay to society’).

As was his way, Wilde treats everyone and everything with a certain amount of scepticism and humour, lapsing only once into bitterness when he recalls the humilities he suffered in prison and the inhumanity of the decision to deprive him of the love of his sons.

As far as his work was concerned, Wilde said that ideal criticism consisted of unqualified approval. No doubt he would have approved of this.

 

NORTHERN ECHO, UK.

‘NEIL THUMBS HIS WAY ON STAGE’.

Actor and writer Neil Titley appreciates the importance of a rail service, thanks to his marathon trek for a performance tonight.

Currently achieving fame for his one-man Oscar Wilde show, Neil had to rely on his thumb to get him to Darlington Arts Centre on time. Non-driver Neil hitch-hiked all the way from London to Darlington yesterday to make sure of making the curtain-call for tonight’s show.

‘I tried the coach station but it was like trying to get the last flight out of Saigon’ he said. ‘Flying from Heathrow was too expensive, so I was left with just one alternative and it worked very well.’

He got just one lift from London all the way up North after half an hour’s hitching but failed at the final hurdle. The car broke down two miles outside Darlington and he completed the journey in a breakdown truck.

It just hasn’t been his year. After writing and working on his show since 1979, he finally got a top class London venue and is due to open at the Café Theatre off Leicester Square next week.

Two years ago he heard that Vincent Price is to open in London on July 23 – in a one-man Oscar Wilde show.

‘It was pure coincidence, nothing more. Just bad luck,’ said Neil, who is hoping to return Price’s compliment when he travels to America for his first show in Portland, Oregon, later this summer.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL PRESS

 

BULAWAYO CHRONICLE, ZIMBABWE. ‘MASTERLY PORTRAYAL OF WILDE’.

Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes – No prizes for guessing who made this pronouncement. It could only be Oscar Wilde, wit extraordinaire, writer, poet, playwright of the late 19th century whose plays, in particular the sparkling Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan, are always crowd pullers.

A small but appreciative audience at the Bulawayo Theatre saw on Tuesday night Mr Neil Titley from the UK evoke the very essence of Wilde in this portrayal to mark the 100th anniversary of his trial and sentence in 1895.

His only props, a small table, a chair, a wine glass, a candle and a bottle, his acting brought alive the suffering genius, a little seedy and run down, living in penury in Paris after his release from prison. As Wilde himself relating anecdotes of the days of his glory, he brought us in the space of an hour from laughter to tears for his sufferings in Reading Gaol and, in a few short sentences, the agony of the loss of his children, barred from ever seeing him again.

Mr Titley used many of the writer’s best quips to tell the story with devastating comment on his fellow men.

Wilde’s trial and sentence came at a time when his fame and popularity were at their height: Mr Titley’s masterly performance, using his own material and his skill, gave us a glimpse of his triumph and the tragedy of his disgrace.

 

FINANCIAL GAZETTE, ZIMBABWE. PETER ASWEGAN.

…….For all that, it was an ambitious undertaking and is, I think, worth a visit. I would not agree with Oscar Wilde’s comment that ‘one must have a heart of stone to read of the death of Little Nell without laughing’ – Evita’s death scene was indeed moving.

That comment by Wilde, however, reminds me of an entirely superb performance I witnessed at the New Club on Wednesday of that week, mounted by an intriguing group calling itself the A2 Theatre. This was Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes and was a one-man show by an overseas actor, Neil Titley, based on the life and works of Oscar Wilde.

For, from the moment this somewhat blowsy, overweight character in grubby evening dress sauntered on to the bare set (supposedly a café in Paris, where Wilde spent his exile) we were treated to a sparkling exhibition of Wilde’s wit by a professional who knew exactly what he was about.

It was an object lesson in stagecraft and the man simply WAS Oscar Wilde, with so many of his delightful quips, in one of which he referred to critics as ‘the body-snatchers of literature’.

All his bon mots were there: the many faults of the gentleman who possessed not a single redeeming vice: the lady whose hair had turned quite gold with grief, and the percipient remark that the world is a stage but the play is badly cast.

Titley showed us the man’s brilliance of mind, his clear vision and his astonishing arrogance which prevented him from reaching the heights that his contemporary Bernard Shaw attained. It was, as I have heard in a totally different context, a night to remember. Thank you, A2.

 

SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. Dino Mahoney. ‘A TOUCHING OSCAR’.

Going to a one-man show where the actor recreates a character from the past is a bit like going to a seance where a full ectoplasmic materialisation takes place. Last year Bob Kingdom resurrected Truman Capote for us – this year it was the turn of Neil Titley who, in an act of remarkable transfiguration, walked on stage as Oscar Wilde.

With only a table, a chair and a candle Titley conjured this great ‘lion among Daniels’, brilliantly capturing the bygone educated tones of the real Wilde.

Wilde said, ‘to become a deeper man is the privilege of those who have suffered’ and this is the Wilde that Titley chose to recreate – the Wilde in exile in Paris after his release from a two-year jail sentence in England for homosexuality. This gave the piece a welcome focus.

The most telling and memorable moments of the evening were the stories about Wilde’s imprisonment. Stories such as the time Wilde was made to wait on a London train station platform in full prison uniform while a mob gathered to jeer and mock him. The most touching moment came with the story of the court injunction that forbade Wilde to see his two sons again. Wilde loved his children dearly and this barbaric, enforced separation was a crushing blow.

Titley moved from famous Wildean quips to these later poignant stories with natural ease. One of the strengths of this portrait was that at no time was Wilde’s pathetic position sentimentalised.

As Titley said in his post-performance chat, Wilde, despite the brutality of his treatment by society, never became bitter. And this is the Wilde that Titley lovingly conjured, a man exiled by a society that once lionised him, still brimming with a life-giving wit.

 

GENOOTSCHAP NEDERLAND-ENGELAND, UTRECHT.

On Friday, 13th December, 1996, inauspicious as the date was, we chose to hold our Gala Christmas Party and to be extravagantly entertained beforehand by Neil Titley in his one-man show, Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes.

How is it possible that a satirical evening, forcing us to look at ourselves so candidly, could at the same time be so funny and so poignantly entertaining? Oscar Wilde, seen through the eyes of actor/author, Neil Titley, surely brought us quite successfully into that state with his delightfully incisive wit.

There were moments when Neil and Oscar seemed inseparable. Enthralled and generously entertained by them both, we were later, very movingly, shown Wilde’s rendezvous first with irony and then, in Reading gaol or dying alone in Paris, with despair. Outrage had finally caught up with him. Here was no irony, just sheer genius personified.

As though such an emotional journey were not enough for one evening, the working as well as the drinking classes then digressed to our annual Christmas bash.

 

IRISH MIRROR: Editorial.

It’s a massive round of applause for madcap actor Neil Titley. He put his money where his mouth is and hitched around Ireland to win a bet.

Most of us make drunken boasts in the pub from time to time, but who can be bothered to carry them through?

Not many – especially when the idea is wackier than your wildest dreams. And especially when it involves dressing up as Oscar Wilde and relying on your wit to earn a crust for 40 days. Not to mention the energy and effort needed to perform the same play single-handed 20 times in as many different venues.

Which is why Englishman Neil has taught us all a thing or two about fun and determination with his whirlwind tour of Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes.

And somewhere in the Aran Islands, a group of academics is still wondering what hit them early one morning when Neil sprung on a captive audience.    Slainte, Neil.

 

THE PILOT, SOUTHERN PINES, NORTH CAROLINA, USA.

Neil Titley, in period garb, was every bit the witty, paradoxical Wilde, lampooning the social mores and behaviour of upper class society of his time. The English-Speaking Union audience was held in rapt attention as ‘Wilde’ gave his entertaining discourse. Mr Titley, a member of the Oxford Playhouse and Royal Shakespeare companies, has recently toured Ireland, the French Riviera, Hong Kong and the Netherlands. For twenty years he has concentrated on writing, directing and acting solo shows. His play, ‘Shaws Corner’ was televised in over 20 countries.

The next and last program of the English-Speaking Union season will be April 11, at the Country Club of North Carolina. Judge Manuel L Real, International Law expert, will speak on ‘International Law and the US’. Judge Real is presently United States District Judge, Central District of California.

 

THE MOUNTAIN MESSENGER, CALIFORNIA.

SIERRA CITY: On Friday, April 6, a handful of mountain folk were treated to a wonderful evening set in a Parisian café, the Mountain Shadows (Propri­etor -Englishwoman Beryl Kelly). A tantalizing four-course Ital­ian dinner served with beer and wine was offered prior to the evening’s entertainment: Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes. Neil Titley, born of Scotland, encapsulated the life of Oscar Wilde in a one-man performance in which he became the Irish playwright-intellectual telling his own tale.

Mr. Titley’s portrayal of the tragic and comic life endeavors of Oscar Wilde was captivating and very well done. The entire evening was an experience that event goers are not likely to forget. May there be more opportunities of this caliber offered in the future!

 

THE BELIZE TIMES. Review by Andrew Steinhauer

The solo theatrical production called “WORK IS THE CURSE OF THE DRINKIING CLASSES” was performed by the classically trained British thespian, Neil Titley on Monday night at the Image Factory on North Front Street.

“WORK” is a one-act play composed entirely of 19th century English author/ playwright, Oscar Wilde’s trademark cynical one-liners strung together to chronicle Wilde’s fall from being the dar­ling of the bourgeois to a social pariah.

Wilde was a tragic, controversial figure who was notorious for his wicked sar­casm and his cutting critiques. His liter­ary reputation is based on the success of his gothic novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, 1891, and his farcical play on Vic­torian mores, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, 1895. Wilde started kicking up dust in aris­tocratic and intellectual circles as a critic for the Pall Mall Gazette, (early 1880s) followed by a stint as editor of Women’s World, 1887-89. His career hit high gear with the triumph of ‘Dorian Gray’ in 1891 plus the publication of a volume of es­says, a collection of short stories, and a book of fairy tales all published that same year. Wilde’s life and career came upon hard times when his homosexual relation­ship with a young aristocrat came to light. He was charged for sodomy, tried, con­victed and served two years in Her Majesty’s prison for the crime. By the time he got released, May 1897, his former fans viewed him as a debauched deviant. In a span of a few years Wilde went from literary super-star to social outcast. The same Victorian prudishness that he paro­died in his writings had the last laugh, and it was on him.

Neil Titley is an actor that comes from a stagecraft era that put a lot of stock in precise, almost prissy elocution, where each syllable is tenderly, meticulously polished and exactly enunciated. Crystal­line delivery of lines was a must. That kind of golden-tongued vocalizing is the opposite of the mumble school of Method Acting practiced by Marion Brando and Benicio Del Toro. Titley’s acting style glories in pristine, theatrical artifice, while Brando’s acting style glories in gritty, sweaty realism. Wilde’s sarcastic witticisms are full of high-octane verbal gymnastics and poignantly cynical humor. In Monday’s performance Titley delivered Wilde’s lines with rapid-fire precision and loving gusto.

The performance was basically one long soliloquy, where Titley postured and posed around the sparse set composed of a table, two chairs, five cigarettes, a lighter, a bottle of white wine and two wine goblets. Titley’s interpreta­tion harks back to a very formal type of performance that is oceans, and cultures apart from life in Belize. His pseudo-Shakespearian performing style was interesting in a kind of historical artifact sort of way. If video-taped, a copy would be well suited for a time-capsule, to be dug up sometime in the future, for cultural anthropologists to view the refined, formal exactitude of Titley’s elocution.

For this proletariat critic Titley’s per­formance was less than adventuresome and tended to be one-note. It went the short distance from haughtiness to arrogance to snobbism without touching the pathos of Wilde’s downfall. Also Titley’s delivery was stuck in a rut of supercil­ious, too hoity-toity, and somewhat lim­ited in emotional range.

That said, even though “WORK IS THE CURSE OF THE DRINKING CLASSES” lacked bling-bling, it was still miles ahead of anything currently show­ing on our 62 channels of cable TV.

 

LIT. NET. South Africa. ‘WITTIER THAN THOU’. By Francois Tradoux

Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes. An “entertainment” based on the life and works of Oscar Wilde Text by Neil Titley. With Jeroen Kranenburg. Klein Libertas Theater, Stellenbosch.

The life of Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde’s is worthy of celebration – even if you’re not gay – and this one-man “entertainment” starring Jeroen Kranenburg celebrates the life with apt wit, style and faded elegance. It sets Wilde in a Parisian café, two years before his death in 1900, dazzling the audience with his sparkling bon mots. He talks, he gossips, he admonishes, he roars his disapproval, he whispers his confidences – he revels in words and their power.

It is a huge life – it is larger than life. To encompass Wilde in 60 minutes is well-nigh impossible. There is so much material with which to work. And so many previous texts: Peter Ackroyd’s 1983 novelisation of Wilde’s last years in Paris, The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde; Richard Ellman’s monumental Pulitzer-prize winning biography; Neil Bartlett’s almost hagiographic 1989 novel, Who was that man?; and Stephen Fry’s portrayal of Wilde in Brian Gilbert’s 1997 film version.

And yet this text works, even when compared with its illustrious predecessors. It works because this is Wilde in his own words, and only him. The other characters that played such important roles in his life – his mother Speranza, his wife Constance, and Bosie – feature only incidentally, in passing references. The text celebrates Wilde’s iconoclasm, his unwillingness to accept cant and rhetoric and, in a final act of defiance, his loathing of Victorian morals and the claustrophobic religious life that was its source.

Jeroen Kranenburg’s seasoned performance captures the pathos and the loss of energy of the last years. Yet in the flashbacks there’s the verve, the electrifying energy that underlies Wilde’s wit, the grandness of stature, the booming voice that makes all forms of stupidity wither in its wake. Kranenburg’s 17 years’ experience in various aspects of theatre in Europe shows in his easy stage technique. His comic timing is perfect for Wilde’s paradoxes.

This play is not “politically relevant”. It does not say anything about apartheid or poverty or Aids. It just celebrates art and wit and the importance of being honest, even if that honesty means turning every conceivable accepted wisdom upside down.

 

TIMES OF INDIA. ‘A WILDE THEATRICAL START’.

No, it was not a stormy night. It was a balmy evening in the capital that saw the begin­ning of the Old World Theatre Festi­val on Friday night. Theatre enthusi­asts from all over the city came to at­tend the performance by Neil Titley, the international component of the festival.

‘Theatre Circuit in Full Attendance’:

Vinod and Kavita Nagpal were there, being regulars on the theatre circuit. Bulbul Sharma stopped to chat and catch up. Bubbles Sabharwal was there, a pretty picture in a saiwar kameez. Another regular face on the fashion circuit, she caught up with Asha Kochar as she posed for the shutterbugs. Vidyun Singh and Ambika Shukla were there as well.  Malcolm Wroe watched his friend perform from the wings, while Neil set the stage for a performance that was a connoisseur’s delight.

‘Titley Goes Wild’:

Playing Oscar Wilde, Titley brought out Wilde’s in­comparable wit and oft-neglected hu­manity in the performance, entitled Oscar Wilde The Tragedy and the Comedy. The audience was constantly tittering, gig­gling, laughing and guffawing as Titley’s Wilde threw the acid of his suave, poisonous crit­icism on Victorian society and his detractors. “This is my first time in Delhi,” revealed the actor.

 

THE HINDU, India. ‘ABOVE THE MEDIOCRITIES’ by NANDINI NAIR

Solo theatre veteran Neil Titley discusses Oscar Wilde and Going Solo

Neil Titley is accustomed to dominating the stage in his solo performances. ‘When you walk onto stage and see another actor, you wonder what they’re doing there!’

Evidently, this is an assertion of an actor who is accustomed to being the cynosure. Neil Titley, from Scotland, ruled as Oscar Wilde in a solo play. “Oscar Wilde – The Comedy and the Tragedy” was part of The Old World Theatre Festival held at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.

First performed 23 years ago, it has travelled to the U.S., Mexico, Africa and Europe. “But some places have been trickier than others,” Titley adds, “on religious grounds.”

The play is set in a cafe in Paris, soon after Wilde’s release from jail. It is deeply rooted in the context of 19th Century Europe, but it resonates today. Wilde confesses his experiences while taking intellectual pot shots at the world.

Titley expresses his own surprise at the audiences’ enjoyment at the many ingrained references. “The opening night in Delhi was been fascinating,” says Titley, continuing, “The audience was very, very good.”

He vividly describes the experience of a solo act. “There’s no net. You’re on a high wire.” Ask him about the difference of working with a company and a solo act and he says, “In a company, you work on the relationship with other players on stage. But in a solo act you work towards an audience. You are between a stand-up comedian and a theatrical setting.”

He elaborates the dangers. “If things go wrong, you’re in trouble.” When does he know when things are wrong? “You do it by the sound, you can tell what’s happening. When the audience starts to shift in their seat… you know something is wrong.”

The play catches Wilde in despair but never without his acerbic wit. When describing his experience in jail the gloom is spread thick and fast. Titley says he dramatised this period of seclusion so that he could choose from Wilde’s entire life.

It is speculated that Wilde actually ignored his friends’ pleas to flee the country when his imprisonment for “committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons” seemed imminent.

Titley himself agrees, “There was an element of martyrdom. He could have escaped. But he didn’t.” But Titley only alludes to the charges. “What’s important about Wilde is what he said, not who he was in bed with. What’s important is his glorious wit and comic sense.”

Titley wrote this play from Wilde’s own work, including essays, letters and plays. The script is luminous with Wilde’s wit. On how he re-creates Wilde’s mannerisms, Titley says, “Wilde was the arch poser and it’s easy to take him out of his photographs.” Through the play, Titley stands with aims akimbo and with the laboured stance of a pregnant woman.

While Wilde disapproved of biographies, in this depiction he might have glimpsed himself.

 

FINANCIAL TIMES (INDIA). By Kavita Nagpal

Scottish actor Neil Titley’s one-man show “Oscar Wilde – The Comedy and the Tragedy” performed at the Old World Theatre Festival held at the Habitat Centre was a hugely entertaining piece of the­atre, bringing to the fore the irre­sistible genius of Wilde, one of the most controversial figures in 19th century English lit­erature. Playing Oscar in formal evening dress sipping wine in a Paris café, Neil brings the writer of the bril­liant comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest” into focus in the sunset of his life after he was released from Reading Jail.

Born in Inverness, Scotland, Neil Titley read America and English studies at Hull University before inventing himself as a student actor at the Oxford Playhouse. He played a series of roles in various theatres, including the Royal Shakespearean Company (RSC). His favourite parts, he says, were the title role in Albert Camus’ Caligula and Ben in 2005 noble prize winning dramatist Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter. He also acted with the Tangent Theatre Company and was director of the Cornish Theatre Company. More recently, he has moved on to the solo theatre, as writer, director and actor. His play on Bernard Shaw, ‘Shaw’s Corner’, was televised and broadcast in over twenty countries.

Oscar Fingall O’Flahartie Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854 to rich parents; his father was a doctor and his mother a patron of the arts. He acquired an intellectu­al reputation and turned out to be a radical thinker first at Trinity and then at Magdalene Oxford, before conquering the wider world of aristocratic London. As a young man, he made a name for himself through the intense and refined audacity of his clothes, his tastes, his language. His gifts of satirical wit and epigrams lent his talent a drawing room and rather superficial character. His early writings met with little suc­cess. It was only with his light come­dies that he achieved success and fame in the theatre- Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892) A Woman No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and finally his most characteristic play, The Importance of being Earnest.

Wilde was convicted of homosexu­ality and sentenced to two years hard labour in Reading Gaol. He came out of prison in 1897 and retired into self-imposed exile in France, where impoverished and deserted by all but a few friends he died in Paris in 1900. The comedy and the tragedy of Wilde’s life have fascinated the twen­tieth century and now, over one hun­dred years later, his wit and his humanity strike home as true, very modern and extremely touching and warming.

Wilde once remarked that he had put his genius into his life and his tal­ent into his work. And Neil Titley’s sympathetic one-man show proves that for once the familiarly flip Wilde aphorism contains more than a grain of truth. It took Neil almost a year of work reading and rereading of Wilde’s Essays, letters, plays ‘in fact the entire range of his writing’ – to create the play which he has played in every nook and corner of the sphere, including Bahrain, Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, Iceland, North and South America and in Europe and Africa, for the last twenty years.

“The basis of all civilization is credit”, exclaims Oscar/Neil as he fiddles with his wine sitting alone in a Paris café. Embittered and lonely he targets friends and foes alike as he bemoans his lack of funds. Not forget­ting to bring in an oblique mention of Lord Alfred Douglas, his erstwhile lover, who is busy gambling his wealth away at races without knowing the first thing about horses. Forced to sur­vive on charity he finds refuge with an acquaintance in Switzerland.” The Swiss” he observes “look like they are carved out of turnips. Even their cattle are more expressive.”

Wilde’s description of his arrest and humiliation at Clapham sta­tion where he stood on the plat­form for nearly an hour as people on recognizing him collected to jeer and mock and his subsequent stay in prison are events Neil plays in the second half of the 60 minute enactment. The brutal treatment at the hands of the pris­oners was nothing as compared to the act that barred him from ever meeting his two children. This part became a bit maudlin and Neil Titley was out of his depth as he tried to draw sympathy for Oscar’s plight.

“Drama critics can all be bought,” Wilde says (forgetting once he himself was one too), “and judging by their looks they could not be very expensive.” At one point in the monologue Oscar suddenly recalls someone asking him to do some work to earn a living to which he says “Hard work is the refuge of those who have nothing better to do.” Oscar went to America on lecture tours and also to produce his plays. While his early plays, Vera and The Duchess of Padua — a blank verse tragedy were both unsuc­cessful, his sparkling wit made his lectures a big draw. Oscar died as he lived “beyond his means.”

Cynical, sad and always stylish, Neil Titley’s picture of Oscar Wilde gives a many-sided and fascinating image of a rich personality.

 

 

FINANCIAL EXPRESS, INDIA. ‘A retake on two wordsmiths.’

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde and George Bernard Shaw (GBS) were born two years apart, within a radius of one mile in the city of Dublin, Ireland; Oscar the older, in 1854, of well-placed if eccentric parentage and GBS in 1856 in a Protestant middle-class family. Though they shared professions and had plenty to say about each other in later life, their paths did not cross as children. The sole interaction between the two families happened when Oscar’s father Sir William Wilde, Ireland’s leading ear and eye surgeon, performed an operation to correct Shaw’s father’s squint. Inadvertently over corrected “my father squinted the other way the rest of his life,” lamented Shaw.

This and other bits of information on the two Irish wits and men of letters were offered by Scottish actor Neil Titley and British actor/poet/playwright Malcolm Wroe on the occasion of Shaw’s 150th birth anniversary.

The two well-known actors shared these insights in Delhi courtesy the joint efforts of Old World Theatre Festival (of the India Habitat Centre) and Shaw’s Corner (of Delhi University). Titley’s solo performance, Oscar Wilde – The Comedy and the Tragedy, is based on the writer’s letters and essays, and is set in Paris in 1898, after Oscar’s two years in penal servitude (for homosexuality) and two years before his death in self-imposed exile in France. The play premiered in Edinburgh in 1980. His play on Shaw, Shaw’s Corner, has also been televised and broadcast in 20 countries.

Is it not boring to do the same show year after year?

“If I had to play every day and in the same place, I’d would be in a strait-jacket!” exclaimed Titley. “Fortunately I have been travelling far and wide with the show – Iceland, Ethiopia, Hong Kong, Delhi. I’m also working on a book on Wilde, Oscar Wilde’s World of Gossip. It is inhabited by 300 characters Oscar knew in his life.”

Why Shaw and Wilde?

“They were contemporaries, both critical of Victorian morals and social order, witty, clever and daring in their own manner. There is a Wilde quote almost daily in British newspapers even today. Friendly rivals, they both wrote dance, music and art reviews for the Pall Mall Gazette and the National Reviewer,” said Wroe.

Oscar Wilde once famously remarked that he had put his genius into his life and only his talent into his work. Wilde made a mark in aristocratic London through the audacity of his clothes, his tastes, his satirical wit and epigrams. Shaw was then an impoverished writer working as a clerk in Dublin. In fact Wilde had already achieved literary success and fame with his theatrical gem The Importance of Being Earnest (1895) and a novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. As far as Shaw is concerned, he gained importance after Oscar’s exile with Arms and the Man, which was staged in 1898.

On Oscar’s death, Shaw wrote, “Let us not hear any more of the tragedy of Oscar Wilde. He was the greatest comedian of this century. All his trials and tribulations were external. Even on his deathbed he played it for laughs!” Apparently when asked for a large sum for an operation, “Ah well then” said Oscar, “I suppose that I shall have to die beyond my means!”

While Neil’s enactment as Oscar Wilde in a period costume was a theatrical coup, Malcolm Wroe’s dramatic reading from Shaw was entertaining and informative, though he could not hold the Irish accent for long.

Shaw’s sharpest observations were reserved for politics and politicians. “He knows nothing and he thinks he knows everything. This points clearly to a political career.” He had something to say on every social institution: “Marriage is popular because it combines the maximum of temptations with the maximum of opportunity.” “Beware of the man whose God is in the skies” (religion).

Oscar Wilde said “He (Bernard Shaw), hasn’t any enemy in the world, and none of his friends like him.”

 

 

TRENDYLICIOUS – Mumbai Edition, India

Oscar Wilde: The Comedy and the Tragedy

‘Your Friday night options:

  1. Drinks and dinner (boring).
  2. Bar hopping (forgotten last weekend’s mega hangover, haven’t you?)
  3. Date with HBO (come on, it’s Friday night)
  4. Go Wilde

If you checked option D, you’re in for a treat of the literary kind. Making its debut in India this Friday is Oscar Wilde: The Comedy and the Tragedy, that’s been touring to rave reviews all over the world. Life-long Wilde scholar and Scottish actor, Neil Titley, wrote the play and gives a solo performance. Based upon Wilde’s letters and anecdotes, and Titley’s own writings, the drama depicts Oscar Wilde’s meteoric rise, through his brutal downfall and disgrace.

Dressed in frilly Victorian garb, Titley bears an astonishing physical resemblance to the playwright, and expertly reproduces Wilde’s sparkling wit and humour with élan, complete with the glimpses of bitterness and suffering that characterised Wilde’s life. To take a cue from Wilde – ‘The world is a stage, but this play is very well cast indeed.’

 

 

 

 

CANADA. LIFE WITH MORE COWBELL – The Ontario Arts Scene

A delightful, insightful evening with Oscar in the witty, thoughtful ‘Introducing Mr. Wilde, or Work is the Curse of the Drinking Class’.

Red Sandcastle Theatre A.D. Rosemary Doyle has teamed up with Jennifer Watson and Dorian Hart to launch The Wilde Festival, which opened with its inaugural production of Neil Titley’s one-man show Introducing Mr. Wilde, or Work is the Curse of the Drinking Class at Red Sandcastle’s storefront space at Queen St. East and Logan, Toronto last week.

Hart sets the tone for Titley’s intimate performance with a pre-show selection of beautiful nocturnes by Irish composer/pianist John Field, who invented the Nocturne. Field’s work served as an inspiration for Frederic Chopin’s compositions – and Chopin was a favourite of Wilde’s.

‘Introducing Mr. Wilde’ is performed in three parts. When Titley first appears onstage, it is as himself – in affable, accessible lecturer mode. Engaging and entertaining, he offers up a brief history of the show – which has been performed all over the world and to great acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival – and a quick timeline overview of Wilde’s life.

In particular, we track Wilde’s 1882 lecture tour to Toronto; and Titley found the only venue still standing, not demolished or destroyed by fire, is Niagara Falls. And Wilde was apparently unimpressed by the great wonder of nature. Perhaps he only saw the American side.

Then, something truly remarkable happens. Titley transports us to 1898, to a Paris café where he shifts from himself as 2017 lecturer to Oscar Wilde, a year after he was released from his two-year prison sentence. The transformation is remarkable, both physically and vocally.

As Wilde, he regales us with thoughts and anecdotes – with razor sharp wit, charm, unapologetic irreverence, and disdain for the mediocre and disingenuous. It’s not all fun and satire, though. There is an impassioned, deeply moving account of his experience in jail; and combined with that keen observation and ability to poke fun at society, it makes for a lovely nuanced, mercurial and poignant performance. Titley masterfully evokes the energy of Wilde; so much so, you can feel you’re sitting in the room with him.

Through it all, even when times are at their roughest, we see a man intent on pursuing a life of pleasure, art and beauty. Sucking the marrow out of life, even in his final days of penury and failing health, Wilde is the soul of wit to the end – a man who made the most of his life until his death at 46 in a Paris hotel.

We then return to 2017 to a short Q&A with Titley, during which one audience member asked if it was true that Wilde’s final words were “One of us has to go,” referring to the wallpaper in his hotel room. It’s highly likely. However, there is some question about his death bed conversion to Catholicism; it’s possible that his gesture in response to Ross’s query to bring a priest was misinterpreted – and he wasn’t signalling affirmation, but rather reaching for a cigarette. So his conversion could have been entirely accidental.

This is a must for all Oscar Wilde fans – or even if you’re just curious about the man. Whether you know a lot or nothing about him, it’s an entertaining and informative ride.

I hear Titley is heading out on a cross-country train trip next week. If VIA Rail is smart, they’ll let him perform the show on the train.

A delightful, insightful evening with Oscar in lecture and first-person musings in the witty, thoughtful Introducing Mr. Wilde, or Work is the Curse of the Drinking Class.

 

THE READING SALON, TORONTO, CANADA

Written and performed by Neil Titley, ‘Introducing Mr Wilde, or Work is the Curse of the Drinking Classes’ is a smart and often cheeky introduction to the life and death of Oscar Wilde. ‘Introducing Mr Wilde’ has literally toured the world including sold out performances for three years at the highly competitive Edinburgh Festival in Scotland and is now at the Red Sandcastle as part of the Wilde Festival. What Titley lacks in flamboyant dress he makes up for with deliciously dreamy story-telling and a sincerity of character that was as compelling as he was funny.