The Judas Kiss tells the story of two specific incidents in the life of the Irish playwright Oscar Wilde – brilliantly portrayed by Rupert Everett.
The first incident takes place in the Cadogan Hotel in London in 1895, just after the after the collapse of his libel suit against the Marquess of Queensberry: We see Wilde basically trapped in his hotel room with his lover Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie), played by Freddie Fox. Both common sense and his loyal friend Robert Ross (Cal Macaninch) urge him to flee to France to avoid arrest, but Wilde is determined that he will not go. Whether this was to make a stand against the laws of the time or not is debatable, and not made clear from the play.
The second incident is set in Naples, two years later, after Wilde’s release from prison. He seems to have become a shadow of his former self, unable to write, and content to just sit in his chair and watch the sunset. We then gradually see the heart breaking consequences of his stay in prison – the ending of his relationship with Bosie and the abandonment by all his friends.
First seen in 1998, the play was not a great success. However with strong casting of the central characters and under the assured direction of Neil Armfield this is now a much richer play. Rupert Everett gives an excellent portrayal of Oscar Wilde, showing us his sensitive and vulnerable side, and Freddie Fox as Bosie adds the right touch of enthusiastic young but forbidden love, but also the selfishness that comes partly from his arrogance, and partly from his upbringing.
The supporting roles are excellent and I am especially enchanted with the hotel servants Arthur Wellesley, played by Ben Hardy and Phoebe Cane played by Kirsty Oswald.
The set designed by Dale Ferguson is well thought out, managing with very few changes to portray the difference between the opulent surroundings of the Cadogan Hotel and the much simpler lodgings in Naples.
I have to congratulate Rick Fisher on his wonderful use of lighting effects – simple but working oh so well showing us the sun setting in Naples and the softer evening lights.
My one criticism of this production would be that parts of the second act are a little too wordy and there are a couple of times when I find my mind beginning to wander. However all in all, a very enjoyable and informative evening’s entertainment. Well worth a visit.