REVIEW: Wild(e) Tales, Tales from the Shadows (VAULT Festival)

Sunday afternoon saw us back at VAULT Festival for another family friendly show. This time we were there to check out Wild(e) Tales, an anthology storytelling of the fairytales of Oscar Wilde, which was billed as a “perfect production for mature children and childish adults”. Throw in a non-binary drag artist (Crystal Bollix) as Oscar Wilde and this sounded very much like our sort of show!

Wild(e) Tales sees The Shadow Gals (Emily Collins, Orla Devlin, Georgia May Doorley, Sionnán Nualláin and Deirdre Quinn) taking it in turns to recount the fairytales originally written for Wilde’s own children, using traditional Irish oral storytelling. They are accompanied by shadow puppetry and interrupted by Wilde himself when (despite having written the stories) he doesn’t like what he hears! Each of the tales (The Remarkable Rocket, The Nightingale and the Rose, The Fisherman and his Soul, and The Selfish Giant) is told by a different storyteller while the others operate the impressively intricate shadow puppets. With the fine details of the stories lost in translation over time, the orators (and Wilde) tweak the tales until they are happy with their messaging. Although, as they point out, they pretty much all end with somebody dying for love and being turned into a flower!

Each of the Shadow Gals is a very engaging storyteller who puts their own spin on the tale they tell. The shadow puppetry is stunning and it was a lovely touch to let the children play with the puppets at the end of the show. Wilde is also accompanied by a large and suitably extravagant hand puppet named Earnest, for reasons that are inexplicable but undoubtedly important. Crystal Bollix (otherwise known as Alexandra Christle) plays a appropriately witty Wilde, whose pompous interjections give a sense of the writer’s flamboyant character. If anything, we would have liked it a little Wild(e)er. More flamboyance. More interjections. And, crucially, the resolution of the story that Wilde begins to tell before the show’s abrupt ending; the story of Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. It’s unclear why the decision was made to end the show here, when it felt like it was really getting going. Maybe the intention was to highlight how Wilde lives on in his stories. Maybe because, as Wilde says in the show, it doesn’t really matter what people say about you as long as they’re saying something. Whatever the reason, it felt like a missed opportunity. Having been sold as a show that “preaches difference, acceptance and love” it felt strange not to go on and educate the young audience about Wilde himself.

Running at around 40 minutes, the show certainly didn’t drag. In fact, during the bows, Quaver turned to Mummy and asked why it was ending when we had only just got there! This is testament to the craft of the storytellers who kept all the children engaged throughout, and ensured that the 40 minutes absolutely flew by. But this really highlighted how disappointing it was to be teased with the promise of one final story and never get to hear it. Then again, as Wilde himself says in the show, he’s so famous that he sometimes gets quotations misattributed to him. One can only assume that he would gladly adopt the age old adage “always leave them wanting more”…..

RATING: Raindrops, Whiskers, Kettles and a Solitary Mitten (aka 3.5 out of 5 of my favourite things).

Wild(e) Tales played at VAULT Festival on 29 February and 1 March 2020. We received complimentary press tickets to review the 1 March performance. We also bought an additional ticket.