Starring Rupert Everett and Freddie Fox, David Hare’s 1998 play focuses on two critical moments in Oscar Wilde’s last years - the eve of his arrest at the Cadogan Hotel and a night in Naples after his release from two years imprisonment; The Judas Kiss speculates on the consequences of his self-destructive fatalism, betrayal and love without trust.
Directed by Neil Armfield, the cast also includes Cal MacAninch, Ben Hardy, Kirsty Oswald, Alister Cameron and Tom Colley, and runs until 6 April.
The critics, having praised the Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated production during its original run at Hampstead, went Wilde once again...
Neil Armfield’s notably well drilled and superbly, sensitively inflected revival… has added elements of both suavity and prickliness to the arguments, and drawn from Rupert Everett as a wise and kindly Oscar… one of his finest, darkest creations, and from Freddie Fox as the insufferable Bosie his best performance to date in an already promising career… there’s no hint of either period “style” or jolting anachronism, it’s all fluent and modern… Hare also avoids the pitfalls of historical drama…by writing around events, not doggedly through them... These encounters underline the draining of joy and carnality in Wilde’s life… And they add real poignancy to a play that is all talk of the highest quality, and a very distinguished addition to the West End list.
Rupert Everett is a revelation as Oscar Wilde in this revival of David Hare’s 1998 play… his performance is a triumph of understatement… Freddie Fox’s Bosie is foppish and self-obsessed. He emerges here as a petulant, manipulative creature. As he flounces and screeches around the stage he is hard to like, and it’s not easy to see why Wilde felt such deep affection for him. But Fox conveys the character’s complexity: although he is vacuous, there’s a note of slyness too… there are some difficult sightlines at the Duke of York’s, and the play strikes me as better suited to a smaller venue, where its more reflective moments would feel less static… The Judas Kiss is worth seeing for Everett, who gives the performance of his career.
David Hare was wittily spot-on when he said recently that “there's a sort of line where you can't tell where Wilde ends and Rupert Everett begins”. And Hare is not the only person to note a Wildean spirit in the prose of the actor's own two splendid volumes of autobiography – “the same heroic cheerfulness in the face of disaster”, as the dramatist puts it. This gift for rising above the catastrophic with a penetrating flippancy… makes Everett heaven-casting as the lead… Watching this welcome West End transfer of Neil Armfield's sparely staged, extraordinary moving Hampstead Theatre revival, I now find myself impressed by many things. One is the acuity with which Hare puts his finger on the essential difference between Wilde and his nemesis… this revival… is obligatory viewing.
Neil Armfield’s fine production… has turned a famous flop into a genuine hit, greatly helped by Rupert Everett’s brilliant and deeply felt performance as Wilde. Saying that someone was born to play a particular role is a cliché, but watching Everett here it also seems a statement of fact. For long sections of the play you feel that you are in the company of Oscar himself… Everett’s Wilde is an older, sadder and wiser man than the wicked wit of popular imagination, and even his moments of humour are shot through with deep melancholy and a passivity that paradoxically becomes dramatically enthralling… It is moving to watch Everett in the role, not least because his gilded youth is far behind him and in this production he finally seems to be redeeming an often squandered talent.
David Hare’s vision of two moments in Oscar Wilde’s downfall finds its definitive star in Rupert Everett: brittle and romantic, flippant and profound, eloquent in battered last-ditch wit… He is perfectly supported by Freddie Fox as the young Lord Alfred Douglas: “Bosie”… Nothing distracts from the strong emotional line, played out on wisely unemphatic sets by Dale Ferguson… Hare’s script eschews too-familiar Oscarisms but catches his nuance and timbre, and Everett carries it to perfection. Fox has a hard task, because Bosie is inevitably arrogant, vain, hysterical and cruel…But Fox gives him a streak of schoolboyish uncertainty, of petulant half-apology, which makes Bosie less a monster than a spoilt, but potentially irresistible, man-child…the lighting design (by Rick Fisher) is one of the many things that take this production, on the big stage, to the heights.
Gay, erudite, and – as he’s fond of telling anyone who’ll listen – endlessly oppressed by the world, Rupert Everett was pretty much born to play Wilde. And whaddya know, he’s superb… An intense, witty, humane play, The Judas Kiss draws pointed parallels between Christ’s betrayal in the garden of Gethsemane and Wilde’s abandonment by his impulsive lover… Everett’s vulnerable, bibulous Wilde isn’t exactly Jesus-like. But he is undoubtedly a towering figure: intellectually, physically, and even morally…There’s a forced risqué undercurrent to the play that doesn’t really work here: if Wilde’s not going to get his cock out, and Bosie’s going to cover his up, then the constant nudity from minor characters feels rather faux-racy… allegory cuts both ways, and the ultimate intimation that Christ was a decent, brave man feels like a generous gesture from the atheist Hare.