BBV Theatre Maskers Studio, Southampton David A Putley 9 October 2023
I had the great privilege of attending a dress rehearsal of this production by BBV Productions who aim to tour this show after 2 nights at The Masker’s Theatre on the 2nd and 3rd of November 2023.
Those who love their Wilde (and I do) are in for a rare treat. 5 terrific actors take on some of the most iconic roles created by Oscar Wilde, be it male of female, from his most popular stage works: The Importance Of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman Of No Importance and (my favourite) An Ideal Husband.
Each gentleman actor had the power to channel exactly the character involved, be it Gwendoline, Lady Bracknell, Lords Goring and Windermere etc. The word learning and expertise of diction and effective mannerism highlighting different aspects of the personages portrayed, dressed only in black and with no scenery or prop is to be mightily applauded. It was quite entrancing.
William Baggs has directed (and also performs – no mean feat) a well-loved selection of pieces which show off his and the skills of Neil Maddock, Simon White David Jobson and Simon “Carter” Mewett to a very high standard. To envisage each character without the benefit of cover in the form of costume etc has clearly taken much effort from them all and each bring tremendous empathy and understanding to their respective scenes. His clear love of the work sings through with a deft and warm approach to his actors and material.
I will not reveal the excerpts, but each comes beautifully alive and because of no distractions, the prose, eloquently spoken throughout, is allowed to shine through and remind us what a master Wilde is at both the absurd and the singular: many of his quotes from these pieces resonate today which says perhaps more about his perception of the human race now and then, than any current form of change in Society attitude. The bullies, the fraudsters and the lovers, chaste or not, fulfilled or not, remain as prominent in our media as then, deserving so much of his parody for both amusement and the ridicule.
BBV, I am told, was formed in 1991 by Bill (William) Baggs, initially producing drama for the video sell-through market, expanded into the world of audio working with established actors primarily from the world of Doctor Who, before turning its attention to theatre.
Starting in 2019, a touring production of Charley’s Aunt was performed at venues in Southampton, Hayling Island, Bournemouth, Romsey, Barnes and Winchester. Next came A Christmas Carol and Betrayal. William Baggs’ fascination with Wilde began with a production of An Ideal Husband and later The Importance Of Being Earnest and he describes this production as akin to the best of Wilde, reflecting the depth of the author’s work generally.
And this he has achieved superbly, his clear love of the pieces being infectious to both cast and audience. Indeed, to quote Wilde himself “Every portrait painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter”.
I would highly recommend this evening of classy entertainment if you find it advertised visiting a venue near you. I am told there are plans to revisit Hayling Island and Romsey.
There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about. I shall be talking about this for some time.
Editorial: Performances at the Maskers Studio, Shirley, Southampton, SO15 3LX on Thursday 2 November at 7:30pm and Friday 3 November at 8:00pm. Tickets: £14; Available online.