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A “Wilde” Life Indeed

Updated: Jul 29, 2022

Written by Sam Cooke

Photo creds to Abby Swain

‘A Wilde life’, the original queer musical, created by Andie Curno, George Marlin, Alex Boulton and Mia Ruby had its debut run in Workshop Theatre last Friday. The show follows the life and times of Oscar Wilde. The icon and dandy narrates his life back to a bar full of strangers, turning the swarming admirers into apparitions of the friends, family and lovers that he has left behind. Chevron Theatre’s new show includes LGBTQ+ representation, educational historical accuracy, and musical hits which are in equal parts jazzy and sensual, showcasing a wild life indeed.

Having previously known next to nothing about Oscar Wilde, I walked into the Workshop Theatre, seeing how it had been transformed to a Parisian wine cellar. A room lit in red was filled with the dregs of Parisian society and the aroma of rich wine; Chevron Theatre had excellently captured the ambience of the ‘shitty little jazz cafe’ from the moment the audience step in. Musical Director Alex Boulton was playing a piano, brilliantly built into the set from start to finish of the full musical, must be given specific applause. What an incredible feat, up until moments where Connie (Freya MacTavish) tells him to “shut up” to which he obliges. Just one of many examples of the dazzling and ‘out of the box’ comedic moments from the show’s co-writers and directors.

For the opening song “Oscar in Paris”, we have a grand and particularly sexy entrée from our main guests of the cellar, through the centre of our audience, with one audience member even getting a flirty comment and arm touch on the actor’s way down. What an incredible way to come back from COVID at the first Edinburgh Fringe with this kind of audience interaction. During this song, our protagonist Oscar Wilde (played by Jake Glantz) makes his initial appearance with a gorgeously choreographed spoken song. However, it must be said that his slight lack of vocal projection made it difficult to hear all his beautifully written lyrics. There were times I could’ve done with some subtitles. With no doubt is this man an incredible singer, but when surrounded with such intensity it was an issue that came up more than once. Saying this, his intensely sexual and powerful physicality certainly did fill the room, to the point that your eyes are drawn to him even in his ‘off’ moments.

Words cannot describe how much I fell in love with the entirety of the cast when looking at their outfits. All were dressed in red and black, with a dash of deep sultry purple saved for Mr. Wilde himself. Most of the girls were wearing black hot pants, fishnets and black corset tops, small details were saved for more significant characters, for example Constance was wearing a gorgeous black corset a black mesh overlay dress. A badass princess created by producers Emma Wilcox and Daisy Fox.

The full 50-minute run is set up so that all of those in the cellar become a part of the great Oscar’s story, as he tells it throughout. The story begins when Oscar promiscuously entices one of the more innocent-looking boys of his swarm to try some strong ‘straight’ whisky, leading to this switch from a young bar boy into Robbie Ross (Ajay Sahota), the lover. We are then transported to London’s high society, where, in the Savile Club, Oscar and Ross meet. During the song “Love and Art”, Ross was fabulous, as was the chemistry and sexual tension created between him and Jake. In fact, that’s an understatement, Jake managed to create sexual tension with seemingly every character he touched, leaving them swooning. Although I’m sure we can all think of someone that mirrors this in our real lives. Jake easily takes it to the next level, embodying Oscar beautifully all the while.

The dancing in this scene (as the whole show) was incredible, beautifully synchronised freeze frames to tell a story of the love and fantasy between both Bosie and Oscar. Next to Bosie, a dancer was seen mouthing the lyrics to the song she clearly loved so much. An incredibly sweet moment I’m so glad to have caught, leading me to my favorite part of this entire project. Credits to writer and director Andie Curno and Casiah Palmer-Stirling for the choreography throughout the musical.

A special mention needs to go to Imogen Chancellor (playing Ada Leverson) and Dalia Kay (playing Lady Jane Wilde) for their duet, ‘Careful, Darling’. Both projected insanely well, transforming the entire theatre while on stage. The intensity of their passion for the project came across throughout their performance, and help make this an unforgettable musical.

This original queer musical from students Andie Curno, George Marlin, Alex Boulton and Mia Ruby was introduced as ‘sexy, jazzy and wonderfully queer’, and clearly did not disappoint. It is incredibly clear from the get go, that the full cast and prod team are so totally overwhelmed with their love for this show. One only needs to go through Lydia Duval’s ‘Awildelifemusical’ TikTok page to see the beauty and comedy behind these theatre kids’ passion for the project.

What I wouldn’t give to see a full-length performance of this! But for now, what an amazing debut. It left me hoping that their run at Edinburgh Fringe this summer will be the first of many. Regardless, this musical is a testament to what an amazing production team Chevron Theatre have created.

If you didn’t see the show in Leeds, there are more performances in Cambridge from the 26th - 29th and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from the 15th - 27th of August, more information on this can be found here.

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