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One-man Oscar Wilde show in Stratford

Actor Patrick Marley brings his one-man show about the life of Oscar Wilde, Wilde at Heart, to the Bear Pit this tonight and Saturday. Here he tells Gill Sutherland all about it... (Tickets are available on the door)

When/how did you first conceive of Wilde at Heart?

“About 15 years ago. He is such a perennially interesting subject, whose appeal as a person and a writer will, I think, always survive. The fact that I am Irish myself perhaps gives me a little extra understanding of his background.”

What is it about Wilde that drew you to him?

“Unlike some writers, the story of his own life could be considered more dramatic than anything he could have written. He said he thought it was all going to be a brilliant comedy, but found it to be a terrible tragedy. What made it worse was that the tragedy was largely of his own making.”

Tell us in a nutshell what Wilde at Heart is about?

“In my show, which is something of dramatised biography, I tell and act out the story of Wilde’s life, playing all the characters — old and young, male and female, as well as Oscar himself — against the background of his writing, which often illustrates his theory that life sometimes has a tendency to imitate art.

“I usually find that although most people know something about Wilde, the working out of the story is very involving once one gets into the detail of it .The Oscar Wilde scandal was one of enormous proportions, reaching into the highest social and political levels, which had a considerable impact on the result of the 1895 General Election, and reverberated for decades.

“There is a constant tension between the dynamism and originality of his work, and the passion and hedonism which he said in De Profundis was ‘a malady, or a madness’. Despite everything, he was still able to say from that appalling prison cell that ‘my art was the real passion of my life; the love to which all other loves were as marsh water to red wine’.”

Where else have you performed Wilde at Heart?

“I have toured considerably, and have had many exciting adventures with it in many countries, from appearing in Beirut, with the sound of gunshots outside welcoming the president of Iran, to an icy evening in Darjeeling in February beneath the majestic heights of Kanchenjunga, to a performance in Saudi Arabia when half the distinguished audience disappeared just before the performance to rush off to bury King Hussein of Jordan.

“In the end it is the audience that counts, and I have played many venues, large and small, and some of the best times have been in the small. I am very much looking forward to doing the show at The Bear Pit; my only appearances in Stratford in the past have been on tour with other productions in the RSC theatres.”

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