No matter how many interpretations of his life I watch at the theatre and on screen, I am yet to see Oscar Wild played badly. Perhaps this is my good fortune. Perhaps this is because he is such a sought after part that only the best actors get the privilege. The one that of course sticks in my mind is Stephen Fry in the flawless film ‘Wilde’, but then again I, as I’m sure many are, am convinced that Stephen Fry is actually Wilde incarnate so it’s not really laudable that his presentation should be so, well, fabulous.
This time it was Rupert Everett who stooped to pick up that most contested of gauntlets in David Hare’s surprisingly mainstream ‘The Judas Kiss’. Superlatively tall, Everett was fleshed out in an awkward looking fat suit to give him the imposing presence of the genius. Though his head balanced precariously on the suit, giving him a slight comic-book-giant impression, the effect did not deter in the slightest for what was a superb performance.
‘The Judas Kiss’ tells the story of Wilde in the few hours before he is sent to prison and the few years after his release. The writing is tender and subtle and was brought alive by a highly talented cast. While Everett was compelling as Wilde, praise must also go to Freddie Fox who, nudity included, portrayed Bosie with such arrogance yet somehow evoked pathos in the audience.
The final scenes were some of the best theatre I have seen. The tension between Bosie and Wilde was so tangible and so tragic that one quite forgets all the celebrity and notoriety surrounding their relationship and sees the emotional vulnerability of a couple torn apart by society.
It’s not often one can say this about a production but ‘The Judas Kiss’ is flawless. It is perfectly cast, and the setting is beautiful, but at no point intrudes on the subtly of the performances and the vitality of the script. Hare’s play deals with one of the most infamous figures in British history yet does not delve into cliché or sterility. ‘The Judas Kiss’ is completing a regional tour before transferring to the West End.