Ben Kenwright’s production of Oscar Wilde’s Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime, based on Trevor Baxter’s adaptation and directed by Christopher Luscombe, sees Any Dream Will Do winner Lee Mead take to the stage in his comedy drama debut. Alongside Gary Wilmot, Louisa Clein, Kate O’Mara and Derren Nesbitt, Mead’s performance at the Sheffield Lyceum‘s opening night as Wilde’s Victorian London aristocrat, Lord Arthur, proves he is more than just a pretty boy with a good voice.
Lord Arthur Savile is due to marry Sybil Merton (Louisa Clein) but a palm reading by the esteemed clairvoyant, Mr Podger (Gary Wilmot), foresees Lord Arthur will commit a murder in his future, leading the young gentleman to postpone his wedding.
Fearing he will kill his future wife, Lord Arthur considers which of his distant elderly relatives he could do away with instead. Enlisting the help of Mr Podger, Lord Arthur hatches various outrageous plots and plans to commit his crime before marrying Miss Merton.
Much of the press focus has been on Mead and his transition from the musical stage – which he does very well – and this is in danger of overshadowing what is a brilliant production. The play bounds along at a great and enjoyable pace full of Wilde’s humour – which has succeeded in transcending time and culture – and some fantastic acting.
Kate O’Mara performs brilliantly as the frightfully wonderful London socialite Lady Windermere and David Moss plays a convincingly eccentric and confused Dean of Chicester. But it is the genius pairing of Mr Podger (Gary Wilmot) and the explosive German Herr Winkelkopf (Derren Nesbitt) that embodies Wilde’s humour and carries the comedy through the darker moments. From curtain up, Mead perfectly executes his part, complete with Victorian London gentry accent and comic timing, showing he has got what it takes to be a well rounded stage actor.
The performance is enhanced by great set design for a travelling production, placing us in the heart of upper class Victorian London, and quality musicians, Anna McNicholas and Matthew Wycliffe, who sit on stage throughout, with Wycliffe making a brief entrance as a cockney copper patrolling Embankment.
Notable moments of opening night:
Lee Mead’s wonderfully comical expressions.
Louisa Clein’s off-stage violin duet with Anna McNicholas.
Gary Wilmot’s punctuated egg and soldiers breakfast.
Derren Nesbitt’s Herr Winkelkopf’s Zorro-like entrances and exits.
Showing at Sheffield Lyceum for one week only until January 23rd 2010.
Box Office: 0114 249 6000 www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk