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  • Writer's pictureGraham Richardson

Simon Callow in De Profundis - Review and a note on venues

De Profundis (Preview)

and a note on venues

Assembly Rooms


I love Simon Callow. I know among theatre type he is the sort of person it is fashionable to love. But I really love Simon Callow.

De Profundis, an adapted love/hate letter written by the great Oscar Wilde to his partner, is played as a one man show. It is not dynamic in terms of music or elaborate in terms of set. There are few people who could hold a Fringe audience's attention for one and a half hours with this type of set up. Simon Callow is certainly one of them.

The simple problem for me was that he didn't. The play itself feels drawn out, despite the luxurious language and brilliant, arrogant Wilde one-liners which Simon Callow delivers perfectly. However, it was the venue that really let this piece down for me. Assembly Rooms on George Street is undoubtedly a great space, reserved for some really class acts. But it was large and vacuous, with a huge stage that even Simon Callow's presence could not quite fill.

I admit that my concentration was occasionally lost when the couple behind me were talking openly and loudly about not being able to hear properly. But as annoying as that was, I understood their point. Speech got lost in a space that needed to be filled by a grand choral or orchestral piece.

Simon Callow's talent deserves the best of platforms, and Assembly is a respected venue. But the Fringe is not about respectable venues. I want to see this show in a crumbling basement in Leith, a cold cell where you can imagine the anguish in which Wilde was writing. I want to be right up close to Simon Callow with an audience of 30 people, marvelling at every detail of his performance that got lost in the space.

That is a show that should have been memorable. As it is, I enjoyed it, I recommend it, but I will ultimately forget it. As such, it gets a Mustached Puffbird on my scale. I just wanted it to be better.


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