De Profundis*** (Leicester Square Theatre)

Posted: May 7, 2014 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

The lounge room of the Leicester Square Theatre has a performance area of little more than 9ft by 6ft, with the audience seated on three sides and a hard wooden bench on the fourth. This is a prison cell in which a single prisoner, Oscar Wilde, paces back and forth, sits, kneels and bemoans his confinement and his fall from grace. Paul Dale Vickers has adapted and set to music the letter written by Wilde from his prison cell to Lord Alfred Douglas (“Bosie”), his former lover and the cause of his downfall. Essentially it is a self-pitying lament, as Wilde bemoans his loss of status, liberty, dignity and respect. He has faced ridicule on a corner of Clapham Common whilst being transported to gaol, his mother has died during his confinement and the courts have ruled him an unfit father for his two beloved sons. All this for the sake of “the love that dares not speak its name” and for a man that he regards as vain, selfish and holding a talent for being coarse, a man who reciprocates by treating Wilde like a trivial plaything. Bearded and wearing a denim jacket over a t-shirt, Alastair Brookshaw makes no attempt to look like Wilde, but he acts and sings this piece beautifully, giving what is, in effect, a 50- minute chamber recital, with the accompaniment of a single piano. He shows us a man filled with bitterness and resentment, railing against those who have betrayed him and at the hypocrisy of late Victorian society. The wit for which Wilde was renowned is absent from the letter, which is consistent in its angry, pessimistic tone. However, there is little anger in the rich, melodic score which soothes more than enrages. It encourages quiet contemplation of injustices in our country more than a century ago and injustices that still persist in Russia, Uganda and scores of other places across the World today.

Performance date: 6 May 2014

thepublicreview_hor_web copy

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