Review - Vengeance: The Demise of Oscar Wilde

Vengeance written over a scales

With the show back on the stage, and on the road, post-covid, Daniel White re-reviews the renaissance of Vengeance...

Last year I reviewed Vengeance: The Demise Of Oscar Wilde, a play that had been conceived before the restrictions of lockdown but rehearsed with those limiting rules very much in place. I was overwhelmed by the powerful writing and beguiled by the music and songs which perfectly accentuate the story of how Oscar Wilde lost everything. Well, Vengeance is back with err a vengeance and about to start a little mini tour, visiting a select number of theatres.

To be completely honest with you I am not what you would call "impartial" now, as I have arranged a few of the newer songs and composed the Entracte which begins Act 2. But the reason I moved from mere observer (I hate the word critic) to someone that is a proud Vengeance Company member is because I wanted to be part of something truly amazing. It's not just the story that is told so expertly well but the powerful and inspiring work ethic of Writer, John Merrigan, and Music Composer, Danni Morgan. So, this isn't an impartial review but it is an honest and fair one.

When you attempt to create new and boundary-shredding theatre, you always come across those who make it their business to tell you the rules. You know the sort of person! They utter helpful little epithets like "you can't call it musical theatre if there are less than (pick a number) of songs." These restrictive and downright unhelpful sort of viewpoints hamper truly brilliant creatives who are attempting to produce something new and exciting. One of the reasons I am excited to work with John and Danni is because, like me, they make it a point to ignore these sort of opinions. At a time when shows are being cancelled or delayed, John and Danni forged forward and have created a play that is quite simply showered with gold. As I travel to Esher for the first night of the tour I find myself musing about what will have changed since I last saw Vengeance. I knew a handful of songs had been added (I had worked on a few of them) but there was also a new Director and with the lifting of covid restrictions there was the opportunity for more interaction on stage. As the house lights dimmed and the familiar overture started to fill the auditorium I wondered whether I would notice the changes that had been made.
Will Burren (Bosie) Riley Clark (Oscar) Martina Greenwood (Constance)

The first thing I want to say is Director, Tracy Collier is an absolute genius. She has tightened up the pacing on the show (and it was already pacey) with scene changes far more effectively executed. Gone are the blackouts and instead scenes run into each other. The brilliant David Keogh (playing Robbie Ross) moves from his narrative desk to playing his role of Oscar's advisor, friend and once lover so effortlessly the play moves along at a wonderful pace. Both Acts last for an hour and yet it is a genuine surprise when the interval is reached or the cast are taking their bows. This doesn't mean that anything is lost and Merrigan's writing is so well researched and scripted that the full power of both Wilde's genius and also the events that were his undoing hit the audience with effective force. There is also more intimacy between Bosie (the still brilliant Will Burren) and Oscar (Riley Clark) but also some beautiful tenderness between Constance, Oscar's strong but vulnerable wife (Martina Greenwood) and Speranza, Oscar's Mother, (played by Biz Lyon) Martina Greenwood's vocals and emotion on both of her emotional songs were performed astonishingly well and the audience were clearly drawn in to the plight of a wife who just wants to support and love her husband. Riley Clarke is now not just playing Oscar Wilde he IS Oscar Wilde and he owns the stage with every hand gesture and acerbic anti-establishment utterance.

Vengeance is a play that would fit well in the West End or any theatre for that matter. With the addition of a live orchestra and sponsorship, something that is hard to find in this jittery post covid environment, this is a play that has massive appeal to a wide wide audience. The newly opened (September 2021) and lovingly refurbished Esher Theatre was a perfect venue for a play that perfectly embodies why the arts demands better investment and funding. John Merrigan and Danni Morgan haven't just written a play about Oscar Wilde as, by ignoring the naysayers and overcoming the pandemic restrictions they embody the essence of what made Wilde such a great man. Go see Vengeance the message is as resonant and relevant as when Wilde was alive.

Visit for future dates on the tour or get along to Esher TONIGHT (12th February 2021) as there are only a few tickets left.

Images - Courtesy FatDan Productions

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