Oscar Wilde Comes to Life At The Montreal Fringe Festival

Montreal company Creature/creature’s latest piece OSCAR Girl Gone Wilde certainly filled its seats. The one woman showing starring Johanna Nutter is a 45-minute ride through a simple, personal, and thoroughly enjoyable retelling of three Oscar Wilde fairy tales.

Before the play begins, the intimacy of the show is recognizable. The room is set up into a semicircle of chairs squished closely together. Pre-show chatter feels public, and immediately it becomes obvious that this show will be a group experience.

As the play begins, Nutter enters in darkness, grabs herself a beer from the fridge and enjoys singing along and dancing to some loud music over the radio. As the audience starts to feel relaxed—recognizing a wind down from a long, hot day at work—Nutter launches into the topic of her childhood love of Oscar Wilde’s stories. Her joy in the tragedy and beauty of them is what brings the play into a gracefully simple bare bones performance of these three tales.

It is in the presentation of these stories that OSCAR finds its greatest strength. The play works so well because it is entirely reliant and focused on the root of theatre—storytelling. The passion and love for these stories is entirely apparent as Nutter transforms the small space into a world of giants and talking statues with nothing but her performance and a few basic props.

As she moves through the stories of “The Nightingale and the Rose,” “The Happy Prince,” and “The Selfish Giant,” Nutter’s talent shines through the simplicity of the piece. There are no extra frills or shows of flashiness to this play. It is simply a woman dancing around the room, a beer in hand, beautifully telling her favourite stories.`

The play’s one weak point is subtle. Transitions between stories feel awkwardly long, though moments of them may produce laughs and be enjoyable in and of themselves—Nutter breaking to go to the bathroom as she begins one story got a particularly strong reaction from the audience. Still, these in-between pauses break the flow of the show that the storytelling creates.

The good news is that the show returns to the Wilde stories and wastes little time immersing the audience in them. A touching, live phone call to bring in a special guest to help Nutter through the final story wraps the play up on a sweet and sentimental note.

Despite minor problems, OSCAR Girl Gone Wilde remains a strong and entertaining play. No one should be surprised if it finds its way off of the Fringe Festival and into a theatre company’s season in little time.

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