Take a Walk on the Wilde side at Woodley Theatre's Arthur SavileBy Caroline Cook
February 15, 2013
Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime
Tuesday, February 19, to Saturday, February 23
Woodley Theatre, The Oakwood Centre
07939 210 121
If fortune teller read your palm and told you at some point in your life you would commit murder, the chances are you’d raise an eyebrow, scoff or at least walk out of their tent in disbelief.
Of course in the wonderfully witty world of Oscar Wilde his rather well-to-do Lord Arthur Savile believes it without a second thought.
And so begins an series of events where Arthur tries his best – and does his worst – to make sure the person he kills is not his fiancée Sybil.
“Lord Arthur deals with it in a typically Oscar Wilde way,” says Neil Oxley, who is co-directing the show.
“The whole point is it puts him in a situation which is totally against society.
“He comes to terms with the fact he is going to murder someone quite quickly and all he is concerned about is if he is going to kill his fiancée.”
The play was originally written in 1891 as part of a collection of short stories but was adapted for the stage by Trevor Baxter.
Neil has stuck closely to its late 19th century setting. He joked: “I’m very old fashioned. I like things set when they are supposed to be set.
“I like my Shakespeare in Shakespearian clothes. I went to see The Merchant of Venice in Stratford, but they set it in Las Vegas.
“It took me a while to get my head around that – they should have had tights on,” he laughs.
Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime has often been regarded as a black comedy and Neil credits Wilde’s witty words as the source of its humour.
“I think it’s very funny,” he says. “It’s a typical Oscar Wilde. It’s satirising people’s attitudes. It appeals to my sense of humour.
“The whole thing with my sense of humour is I love clever words. I’m not a big fan of people falling over with custard pies.
“You don’t get anything better than wit and you don’t get much wittier than Oscar Wilde.”
Being a long-term fan of Wilde, and having studied The Importance of Being Ernest at School, Neil says when he came across the script while looking for Woodley Theatre’s next production there wasn’t a question about which play to perform.
“I went into Reading library to grab a load of scripts and I saw Oscar Wilde so I picked it up. When I read the script I knew I wanted to do it,” he says.
“The cast have been excited about it but my co-director Laurence [Cann] wasn’t too sure at first so I nagged him until he said yes.”
It is the fourth play Neil and Laurence have teamed up for as a directing double act and Neil says rehearsals have been going well.
“Having two people directing is handy. I do more of the production side and Laurence does the direction side so between us it works nicely,” he says.
“We have got a couple of new members, a couple who have been around for years and some who have only done a few plays so there’s a nice mix of people.
“It’s all coming together and it’s still making me laugh eight weeks on so that’s always a good sign!”