THE TRIALS OF OSCAR WILDE
by Merlin Holland and John O’Connor
Trafalgar Studios (Studio 2) 14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY to 8 November 2014.
Mon – Sat 7.45pm Mat Thurs & Sat 3pm
Runs 2 hr 5 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 871 7632
Review: William Russell, 14 10 14
The folly of being Oscar.
This is a splendidly acted three-hander in which Merlin Holland and John O’Connor have used the transcripts of the two trials of Oscar Wilde to tell the story of his downfall.
John Gorick is a superb Wilde, all smooth conceit and self esteem, while Rupert Mason and William Kempsell demonstrate remarkable versatility as everyone else.
Wilde’s tragedy has, of course, been the subject of many plays and films all of which show him as the victim of prejudice and the social and legal system of the time. The transcripts of the trials, however, reveal a rather different figure. His overweening conceit, his insistence on playing to the gallery, on treating it all – Edward Carson, who defended Queensberry in the libel trial, was an old university foe – as if he were addressing some sort of point scoring intellectual debating society meant that he quite literally dug his own grave.
His lover, Alfred Douglas, was no help and the Marquis of Queensberry, Douglas’s father, who had accused him of being a sodomite, which was the case, was quite possibly mad, but none of that really alters the fact that Wilde should have ignored the libel which consisted of a card left at his club read only by the porter who accepted it.
He did have sex with young working class men, something that could not be kept secret and the law duly took its course. Then, as now, people kiss and tell. Victorian social habits are not our habits and there were plenty working class lads who saw nothing wrong in obliging a gent and plenty of gentlemen who saw nothing wrong in having a bit of rough trade outside marriage.
Wilde was in part a victim of the law, of a vengeful man, and a less than helpful lover in Douglas, but he was much more a victim of his own folly no matter how tragic a figure he also is. The play does have its faults – the line about “the importance of being Earnest” is quoted far too often. All right, we get it. But it is a thoroughly stimulating evening which takes a new, fresh look view at a much viewed subject.
Oscar Wilde: John Gorick
The Marquess of Queensberry, Edward Carson, Alfred Wood, Charles Gill, Fred Atkins, Jane Cotter, Judge: Rupert Mason
Policeman, Sidney Wright, Sir Edward Clarke, William Allen, Reporter, Charles Parker, Antonio Migge: William Kempsell
Voices: Fleur Shepherd, John O’Connor, Illona Linthwaite, Peter Craze
Director: Peter Craze
Set & Costume Design: Dora Schweitzer
Lighting Design: Duncan Hands
Sound Design: Derek Carlyle