Bravado and betrayal in the fall of Oscar Wilde
By Ross Larkin
It can be difficult to associate one of the world’s most iconic, hilarious comic writers with tragedy and betrayal, and as such, a play about Oscar Wilde’s life behind his witty penmanship is confronting, and a harsh reminder of how brutally he was treated.
The Judas Kiss, written by David Hare, has been staged by Melbourne’s own Mockingbird Theatre, and directed by company member Jason Cavanagh. The play examines the hours leading up to Wilde’s arrest for partaking in consensual sex with another man, followed by post-prison life in a filthy, run-down apartment in Naples with former lover, Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas. The before-and-after contrast surrounding Wilde’s two-year sentence is stark as the audience are made privy to the life and mind which was drained from him for supposed crimes and the consequences thereafter.
The initial scenes of The Judas Kiss are driven and ‘bolshie’, as Wilde’s comrades argue about whether he should flee to the continent or not, while Wilde, after feigning indifference, finally admits he lacks the will to try. As these quieter moments set in, the script becomes more engaging and the ensemble cast begin to showcase just how rock-solid they are.
The challenging, changeable role of Wilde is played to perfection by Chris Baldock, who simply nails the part, capturing beautifully the witty and charming bravado of the man prior to his arrest, and the pained, tortured soul thereafter. Oliver Coleman as Wilde’s literary executor and long-standing friend Robert Ross is equally impressive, cleverly demonstrating presence and commitment with an understated fury.
Nigel Langley as Bosie and the supporting cast are all worthy of mention in Mockingbird’s version, which director Cavanagh has succeeded in reimagining with simplistic charm and poignancy. The lighting in particular is beautifully designed by Rob Sowinski and made powerful use of.
The Judas Kiss is another fine example of why Mockingbird Theatre continues to fire along with the big guns, and save for the excessive duration of the final scene, this production is one of Melbourne’s not-to-be missed theatrical experiences.
The Judas Kiss is playing now at TheatreWorks, Acland Street, St Kilda until March 22, Tuesday to Friday at 8pm, and Saturday 2pm and 8pm plus Sunday March 16 at 5pm.
Bookings at www.theatreworks.org.au or (03) 9534 3388(03) 9534 3388(03) 9534 3388(03) 9534 3388.