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Rupert Everett is almost unrecognisable as a flabby, waxen faced Oscar Wilde in Aussie Neil Armfield’s convincing revival of David Hare’s 1998 drama.

Beautifully bathed in undulating light, it homes in on two critical moments in the life of the flamboyant Irish playwright and aesthete.

The first act finds him taking temporary refuge in the burgundy swathed luxury of the Cadogan Hotel in 1895 as his libel case against the Marquis of Queensberry (the irate father of his lover Sir Alfred Douglas) collapses.

Fine wine and freshly cooked lobster are served at a moment’s notice – even as he decides whether to stay put and wait for the police to arrest him for acts of gross indecency or (as urged by Cal Macaninch’s loyal Robbie, reputedly Wilde’s first male lover) to exercise common sense and slip away on the last night train and escape to the continent.

In the second act we see a very different Wilde (now reunited with Bosie in Naples), his clothes shabby, his body broken by two years hard labour but his wit very much intact as his aristocratic beloved entertains the latest in a long line of casual pickups.

Once again, with funds depleted, Wilde is forced to make a choice, and once again Freddie Fox’s petulant, arrogant Bosie reveals his own selfish instinct for self-preservation.

In a finely judged performance, Everett delivers the aphorisms and bon mots with first aplomb and later a moving understanding and resignation.

And a special mention, too, for Tom Colley’s smiling, naked Neapolitan fisherman Galileo who, untroubled by English law, casually flaunts the attractions of the love that dare not speak its name.



Hampstead, Eton Avenue, NW3 3EU
Tube | Swiss Cottage
Until 13th October
£22-£29
hampsteadtheatre.com


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The Judas Kiss theatre review: Starring Rupert Everett and directed by Aussie Neil Armfield
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