Robert Hampton

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27th March 2013

Wilde Life
Posted by at 8.15pm | No responses | Stage

Judas KissThis post contains minor spoilers for the play The Judas Kiss, so you may wish to avoid it if you’re going to see it.

Ian and I didn’t spend our entire weekend riding the rails. We also enjoyed some high culture courtesy of The Judas Kiss, a play at the Duke of York’s Theatre in London until 6th April. It was very much a last-minute arrangement and the tickets we had were “Restricted View”, but for £15 we weren’t about to complain. As it turned out, we were in the Upper Circle and although part of the stage was blocked, we could see most of the action. This proved to be important later on.

The play is about some key moments in the life of Oscar Wilde and his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (“Bosie”). Act One takes place in a hotel just before Wilde is arrested for gross indecency. His friends advise him to try and get out of the country before the police come for him; Bosie advises him to stay and fight the case. Wilde’s trial ended up with him being sentenced to hard labour in prison. Act Two takes place after Wilde’s release, when he is living in France, destitute. Bosie is with him, although he is far from devoted to Wilde, seeking out other men to play with at the same time, and ultimately deserting Wilde completely.

Judas KissRupert Everett is great as Wilde. After Stephen Fry’s amazing performance in the 1997 film Wilde, I wasn’t sure I could accept anyone else in the role, but Everett pulls it off magnificently. He delivers Wilde’s scathing one-liners with perfect comic timing, but also showing the vulnerable side to the man. The younger cast (including Freddie Fox as Bosie, Ben Hardy as Arthur and Tom Colley as Galileo) are all excellent. Overall, it’s

But more than anything else what stuck in the mind was the nudity… there was a lot of it, and fairly unabashed it was too. There’s a brief glimpse of a man and woman having sex at the start of the show, but then in the second act a man (one of Bosie’s conquests) gets out of bed, wanders around stage naked, then sits in the corner for twenty minutes or so eating a bun (with everything on show), while Bosie and Wilde argue.

This is not a complaint; it was very thought provoking. The thoughts it provoked, well… I couldn’t possibly discuss them on a public web site. In an interview with BBC News, the play’s actors talk about the challenge of being naked on stage. Getting your bits out for an audience – now that’s something which takes real, er… balls.

Anyway, I highly recommend The Judas Kiss (not just because of the nudity, honest). It’s an entertaining two-and-a-half hours, and a salutary reminder to gay men everywhere that, not too long ago, the law looked unfavourably on “the love that dare not speak its name”.

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