The Judas Kiss
Written by David Hare
Director: Iain Sinclair
David Hare’s The Judas Kiss is a compelling insight into the life of Oscar Wilde round the period of his famous 19th Century trial for indecency. As we all know, this 1895 trial saw Wilde fall from being London society’s darling to becoming its public enemy. Wilde was skewered by the foibles of that very class he so beautifully sent up in his play The Importance of being Ernest. (Ironically, this work was being received to critical acclaim in that very same year.)
For those not familiar with Hare’s work, the play is presented in two acts. The first finds us in a hotel room with Wilde (Josh Quong Tart), Lord Alfred Douglas (a.k.a. Bosie, played by Hayden Maher) and ‘Robbie’ Ross (Simon London), where an emotional and philosophical debate is ensuing over whether Wilde should fight or flee the country.
The besotted Wilde is letting fly with frivolous lines that frame the most important of issues, and in this very Wildean manner playwright Hare ensures that his audience can not overlook the high ideals Wilde holds in relation to love, self-expression and generosity, while also providing us with a glimpse of the character whose excessive and indiscreet inclinations would lead to his downfall. We are also made privy to the character of the less besotted Bosie, already exhibiting a sense of entitlement and selfishness (being of the Marquess of Queensberry’s family the ‘title’ in entitled goes without saying, I guess). By contrast to this flamboyant pair, the genuine concern of Robbie ‒ Oscar’s first male lover ‒ in trying his utmost to get Wilde out of the clutches of Bosie and into a taxi that will begin his flight from the British legal system, starkly contrasts.
The second part of The Judas Kiss is set in a simple room in Naples, post-trial, post-sentence, post-jail term. Wilde seems confined to a chair, Bosie is doing what Bosie does best – being buggered by a pretty Neapolitan sailor in another part of the flat. Robbie arrives from London with news of Oscar’s family and ‒ it would seem ‒ as the vehicle that enables this tight cast to continue the previous conversation. As you can imagine, the appalling experience of Wilde has somewhat changed his character … or has it?
The strength of Hare’s script is expressed beautifully by the actors. The frivolity in language that frames Wilde’s despair becomes increasingly contrasted as we note that though all characters – to varying degrees - are flawed (saving perhaps the loyal Robbie), the actual destruction of Wilde’s life seems to be more based on the destruction of his idealised belief in love and in his own noble character than in the physical and social hardships he has experienced.
A fabulous script managed very well by Director Iain Sinclair, actors and all concerned with Red Line Productions. The Judas Kiss is proudly supported by Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
The Judas Kiss
Old Fitz Theatre
Until 11 March