Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde? Surely that’s duh-ream casting, darlings, don’t’cha think? If only! Yes, author David Hare superbly evokes two pivotal, Wildean life events – his imminent arrest at the Cadogan Hotel and his post-jail, brief reconciliation with Bosie in Naples – but the staging, guys, sucks worse than a failed lung transplant!
Certainly, Everett’s the towering, defining Wilde of his generation, effortlessly eclipsing Stephen Fry’s timid, bumbling version, but why set a flawless diamond in diamante? See, it’s the 21st century, guys, and to quote John Barrowman’s Captain Jack, this is ‘when everything changes. And you gotta be ready.’
Indeed. Why is most mainstream, English theatre still staged prehistorically? Can’t punters deal with a multi-media orgy of the senses, as lusciously mounted by iconic mavericks Stevn Berkoff and Lindsay Kemp?
Surely Wilde’s Dorian Gray brilliance deserves – and would immensely benefit from – Lady Gagaesque inventiveness? Just think: evocative back projection, simultaneous back-projected zooms of the spotlight, alternating speaking actors, subliminally associative music, and, more radically, maybe Oscar and Bosie in rubber and stretch leather!
Remember, gay fetishes and symbolism don’t change, only their manifestations de jour! Me, I’m dying to see John Galliano dress a ketamine Dorian Gray, much as author Will Self rewrote a version of Dorian for the late 90s!
But back to Judas Kiss, and its’ brilliant equation of Wilde’s stunningly modern, selfless take on love with Christ’s sermon on the mount spirituality.
Totally transcending petty, English bigotry, Wilde defied both law and promised security to insist gay love was sacred. Sure, for those who need subtleties bullet-pointed in 3-D, there’s appropriate male nudity, but really, Hare’s true subject is savaging outmoded sexual moralities.
A pity, then, that’s it’s mostly delivered from chair-bound declamations. But the acting’s stellar, with Freddie Fox’s Bosie piss-elegant but petulant, a psychopathic, 19th-century Rylan screaming for attention at any cost, even his lover’s total disgrace and ruin.
But in a phrase, Everett plays Wilde as Edmund White meets Morrisey; an immensely erudite, killingly one-liner bon vivant with devastating dress-sense, a superbly perverse polymath beyond the dreams of the ignorant and obscure. Drab stage values aside, finally, we have the ‘Wilde’ Oscar deserved; Rupert, my dear, you’ve totally nailed it!
• Duke Of York’s, St Martin’s Lane