THE JUDAS KISS
by David Hare.
Hampstead Theatre Eton Avenue Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU To 13 October.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed 2.30pm Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 29 Sept 3pm (+Touch Tour).
Captioned 25 Sept.
TICKETS: 020 7722 9301.
then tour to 17 November 2012.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 12 September.
Kiss of life for one from the back-catalogue.
In three comedies Oscar Wilde cloaked social subversion with society wit, then wrote his most subversive, tightly-plotted comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, the roaring success which suddenly closed because of its author’s trials.
Which is the point in Wilde’s life, the mid-1890-s, where The Judas Kiss begins. First seen in the West End in 1998, David Hare’s play seemed glib and empty. And often such plays, when revisited by their author and revived, reinforce first impressions.
Here, a transformation seems to have taken place as Australian director Neil Armfield and the more compact Hampstead Theatre reveal a considered drama, which suggests Wilde’s wit while deploying only a few of his lines, and follows its protagonist in holding-back on moral judgements, while revealing the tensions behind Wilde’s key choices in adversity.
Each act opens with some happy sex; the first ends with police arriving to arrest Wilde – its closing thump is Armfield’s sole theatrical cliché, the second with the writer sunk in a chair, alone with his words as darkness falls in Naples. The person who had sat with insouciance to a meal rather than escape in 1895, can barely stand a few years later.
Rupert Everett’s performance deepens as Hare moves in on the character, reaching beneath the image to the self-awareness. What starts a reasonable impersonation, long before the end has become a penetrating portrait.
Freddie Fox matures as Wilde’s appalling evil angel Alfred Douglas, from impulsive, ill-advising youth to calculating, self-excusing young man. If sex is easy, for the young and beautiful, love is hard for all (Wilde should have noted the advice of Shaw’s Candida to her young lover on age profiles).
Cal Macaninch is properly earnest as Wilde’s would-be good angel Robbie Ross, the hotel staff immaculately performed (Ben Hardy’s upfront servant bearing the Duke of Wellington’s name). Designer Dale Ferguson uses hanging swathes to create the dark Cadogan Hotel bedroom, then the whiteness of Italy, in partnership with Rick Fisher’s lighting, which glints off the Cadogan’s brass bedstead, washes the Naples house and, at moments, scans the room as if searching-out all Wilde’s secrets.
Arthur Wellesley: Ben Hardy.
Phoebe Cane: Kirsty Oswald.
Sandy Moffatt: Alister Cameron.
Robert Ross: Cal Macaninch.
Oscar Wilde: Rupert Everett.
Lord Alfred Douglas: Freddie Fox.
Galileo Masconi: Tom Colley.
Director: Neil Armfield.
Designer: Dale Ferguson.
Lighting: Rick Fisher.
Sound: Paul Groothuis.
Composer: Alan John.
Costume: Sue Blane.
Dialect coach: Tim Charrington.
Italian coach: Luca Pusceddu.
Culinary advisor: J D Smith.
Assistant director: Lloyd Wood.
15-20 Oct 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Gaiety Theatre Dublin 0818 719388 www.gaietytheatre.ie
22-27 Oct Mon-Wed 7.30pm; Thu-Sat 8pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Bath 01225 448844 www.theatreroyal.org.uk
29 Oct-3 Nov 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Richmond Theatre 0844 871 7651 www.atgtickets.com/richmond
5-10 Nov 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Brighton 0844 871 7627 www.atgtickets.com/brighton
12-17 Nov 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Cambridge Arts Theatre 01223 503333 www.cambridgeartstheatre.com