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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Oscar at the Crown

The Neon Coven

Genre: Immersive, LGBTQIA+, Musical Theatre

Venue: Assembly George Square Gardens


Low Down

Upon arrival you have freedom to roam, around the room, amongst the dancers, dance as you wish and be part of what is about to unfold. By an unseen hand and at a pre appointed time, the stage is then claimed, thrust, literally amongst us and we are taken on a neon ride. It mixes two narratives. The creating of a show all about the Svengali figure of Wilde, portrayed by the leader of a group of miscasts and outcasts, to be performed amongst them. The second is the story of the throng of people cast aside by society who have found common ground, again literally, below stairs, underground and in their own liberating form of dungeon. Amongst them comes a new member, who is not a grateful recruit. Given a role in both dramas she is able to turn the story of the past, into one of the future, championing not the excess of Wilde, but those who survived his wake. It brings a newness and freshness to the story, which is a pleasing diversion.


There is a feeling, when the rules of the Crown are read and explained of the Fight Club first rule. It is anarchic in its existence and there to promote and not limit your freedom. Such excess is celebrated by having a group of energetic dancers engage with the crowd, have selfies with them and invite them to dance alongside before taking command starting the show. It’s thrilling.

What is slightly less thrilling is the volume which can obfuscate meaning and the shrillness of some of the numbers. Between slick choreography and some delicate balancing act amongst blocks on wheels getting moved amongst us this spells jeopardy like a health and safety officer’s nightmare, but that nightmarish vision comes from being unable to quite match what you are hearing with what you are seeing.

It does have a pace, lightning fast which celebrates the libertine tendencies of Wilde – as you would expect amongst the young, but it brings a wonderful and surprising twist. Being gay and therefore persecuted is for many, the importance of Oscar Wilde. Being his wife, the tragedy.

She refuses the happy ending.

It is little surprise that the most memorable part of the show was the final song. Delivered by the new recruit given the role of Wilde’s wife this also saw the rebellion from the Svengali complete as his gang, moved from his sphere of influence to a more inclusive, perhaps even less mansplaning sphere. It is hastened by what appears to be the earth above them beginning to crumble and escape being their only means of survival.

As a theatrical event it powers on. It has verve, vitality, vim and vigour. And it is very, very, very, very good.

My issues with hearing things properly are not age induced either as I did move to hear better and others were struggling, but the thrust of this is perhaps less about the story than the experience. There were plenty in the hedonistic mix, thriving to enjoy it all. That it is wrapped around a literary giant, a figure of debate and admiration from within a cannon of literature many would suggest young people do not know, do not read, nor care about shows just what we know about it. Not for the first time I can see and hear young people readdressing our cannon of literature and find it wanting. Here it is not the work but the life and a new window on him has been opened. That it has been done in something called an immersive nightclub musical is even better than anyone could have imagined.


Show Website

The Neon Coven