The Judas Kiss**** (Duke of York’s Theatre, 27 February 2013)

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Theatre

photo-114First performed in London over a decade ago, this David Hare play shows the downfall of Oscar Wilde; Act I is set in a London hotel room during the hours before his arrest and Act II is set in Naples shortly after his release from prison. In the original production, the two halves did not gel and it was difficult to engage with the play or to understand its point. Liam Neeson played Wilde then and had the Irish accent right, but, with the benefit of hindsight, he may have got just about everything else wrong. In this production, Rupert Everett as Wilde doesn’t bother with the accent but, in every important respect, he is magnificent, a wounded beast still spitting out witticisms but gradually sinking to the defeat that he knows is inevitable. It is a towering performance and it gives the play a depth and meaning that eluded it before. Freddie Fox and Cal Macaninch also give superb performances as Wilde’s current and former lovers, protagonists urging him to take different paths. A play that was previously very easy to forget now turns out to be a revelation.

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